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A Mitchell Beazley 
World Conservation Atlas 

Introduced by David Attenborough 

Mitchell Beazley irlassociation ' 
lUCN: The World Cdhservation Union 



The future of the rain forests is now recognized as 
one of the major global environmental issues for 
the 1990s. Their future and the future of the planet 
are inextricably linked, and if an alternative to 
their accelerating destruction is not found within 
this decade then we may well have lost the 
opportunity forever. At the root of the problem is 
the burgeoning population of tropical forest 
countries - it is estimated that by the middle of the 
next century eight out often people will be living in 
these regions. Public awareness of the problem has 
recently increased, but awareness alone will not 
save the rain forests - practical action is needed. 

The Last Rain Forests guides the reader to a 
deeper level of understanding on which to base 
opinions and take action. It is both a unique atlas of 
the consei-vation status of all the world's rain 
forests, and a blueprint for positive action to 
safeguard their future. 

The book shows readers what rain forests are and 
why we need them, using imaginative illustrations 
to explain their remarkable biology. A section 
entitled "How Rain Forests Work" examines in 
detail the interrelationships between plants, 
animals and the environment in the most complex 
ecosystem on Earth, an ecosystem that contains 
more than half of all living species. 

The extensive atlas section of The Last Rain 
Forests is based on data provided by the 
International Union for Consei'vation of Nature 
and Natural Resources ( lUCN ) through its data 
gathering arm. the World Conser\'ation 
Monitoring Centre ( WCMC ). The maps cover more 
than 50 rain forest countries worldwide and show 
the types and current extent of their forests, 
highlighting the major protected areas. This 
section discusses consei-vation issues of specific 
interest to the individual countries, from tribal 
matters and politics to endangered species and 
environmental problems. Case studies of 
conservation in action show the way forward. 

The Last Rain Forests draws firm conclusions 
from the mass of data it presents and recommends 
strategies that need to be followed if the rain 
forests are to be saved. Its philosophy is that the 
future for rain forests lies in intelligent 
exploitation of rain forest lands and sustainable 
use of rain forest resources. We have to understand 
the needs of the people of rain forest regions, and 
find ways to meet those needs without losing the 
forests, the riches they contain and the vital role 
they play in the health of planet Earth. 

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General Editor: Mark Collins 

Introduced by David Attenborough 

Published in association with 
lUCN: The World Conservation Union 

^ Mitchell Beazley 


"DL'lif;hl ... is a weak tLMiii to oxpri'ss the Icclings ol' a 
iiatuialist. who foi- the tir.-it liiiu'. has waiidoicd by himself 
in a nrazilian fort'st." (^harles Darwin wrote these woi-ds 
in Fehruary 1832. More than 90 percent of the luxui-iant 
coastal forest that he explored has ^one. Recent estimates 
suffiresl. moreover, that nearly two pei'cent of the world's 
remaining; rain forest is lost every year. Unless this trend 
is halted thei'e will he little left in 50 years' time. 

lucN recoftnizes the ur^jency of development and the 
need to use natui-e's i-enewable resource systems to satisfy 
human reciuirements and eliminate the appalling poverty 
that afflicts so many people today. But such development 
must hvHiiaUiiiiablc. usini; the income fiom nature without 
eiodins its capital of soil, water and fertility. 

To many tropical countries, forests are an important 
constituent of national wealth. They protect soil fertility. 
rofTulate and purify water flow, and yield valuable timber 
and other products: usedsuslainably they are an economic 
and environmental asset for tomorrow as well as today. 
Used destructively, for short-term gain, they are afl too 
likely to be replaced by dejiraded land and impoverished 
people. Developinfj countries cannot afford such waste. 

Development must he based on a sound underslandinf; 
of environmental systems. This atlas sets out our knowl- 
ediie of the forests that remain. It akso explains the 
complex issues that must be considered when making; 
decisions about development in lain foi'est areas. Neither 
this hook nor lUCN arfjues that rain forest should be sacro- 
sanct everywhere in some areas, con\'ersion to intensive 
agriculture or agro-forestry ma.\ he the best course to 
pursue. But in much of the forested i-egion. a balance 
between protection and skilful sustainable use is needed. 

if this balance is to be achieved, the industrialized 
countries that liu\' tropical foi'est ]jrt)ducts must support 
and cooperate with producer countries. They must look 
again at how the burden of debt forces tropical countries 
to clear their forests in order to secure immediate income. 
They must help developing tropical countries to imple- 
ment sustainable management and appropriate pricing 
systems, so that rain forests remain to enrich the lives of 
future generations. .And those making plans for the futuie 

change and rise in s 
conservation plans ii 

that could render current 
ible in the futuie. 
'orests hv the world's media is 

an encouraging sign o 

en\'ironmental conservation. But some campaigns have 
failed to see the issues from the point of view of the people 
who inhabit the developing countries of the tropics. 

complex ecology, but depends even more on hnding 
solutions to human social problems alleviating poverty, 
easing debt, and above all creating conditions under 
which human population growth will slow, and people 

W. Holdgate. 



General Editor 
Dr Mark Collins 

Consultant Editor 
Jeffrey Sayer 

Cartographic Advisor 
Mike Adams 

Research Assistant 
Clare Billington 

Deni Bown 
Robert Burton 
Dr Mark Collins 
Dr Roger Cox 
Dr Linda Gamlin 
Dr Caroline Harcourt 
Dr Nick Middleton 
Dr Alison Rosser 
Andi Spicer 
Charles Tyler 
Dr Timothy Whitmore 

No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any 
means, electronic or manual, including photocopying, recording or by 
any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior 
written permission of the Publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data for this book are 
available from the British Library 

ISBN 85533 789 3 

Although all reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this 
book, neither the Publishers nor the contributors or editors can accept 
any liabihty for any consequences arising from the use thereof or from 
the information contained herein. 

Edited and designed by Mitchell Beazley International Limited, Artists 
House, 14-15 Manette Street, London WIV 5LB 

Typeset in Century Schoolbook by Servis Filmsetting Limited, 


Reproduction by Colourscan, Singapore 

Printed and bound in West Germany by Mohndruck GmbH, Gutersloh 

Executive Editor 
Senior Art Editor 

Assistant Editor 
Map Editor 
Picture Research 

Robin Rees 
Paul Wilkinson 
Simon Ryder 
Mike Darton 
Frances Cockayne 
Andi Spicer 
Ted Timberlake 

Maps by Lovell Johns Limited, Oxford 
Indexed by Annette Musker 

© Mitchell Beazley Publishers 1990 
All Rights Reserved 

Measurements - Both metric and imperial measurements are given 

Billions - Because of the differing usage between the United Kingdom 
and the United States, billions here correspond to thousand millions: 
£15,000 million = £15 billion. 

Brazilians now talk of three seasons: the rainy season, the dry season and the queimadas, or burnings. 


Introduction by David Attenborough 

What are rain forests? 

Lowland rain forests 
Mangrove forests 
Montane rain forests 

Why we need rain forests 

The human factor 
Made in the rain forest 
The world's genetic library 
Protecting our environment 

Pressures on the rain forests 

The impact of logging 
Shifting and shifted cultivators 
Cattle ranching 
Industry in the forest 

How rain forests work 

Evolution of the forests 
Feeding the forest 
Structure by strata 
Tree life cycles 
Light gaps 

Epiphytes: plants on plants 
Climbing plants 
Flowering and fruiting 
Water everywhere 
Fruit and seed eaters 
Nectar and pollen eaters 
Leaf eaters 
Tree travel 

People of the rain forest 













Atlas of the rain forests 

The making of the maps 

Central America 

The Caribbean 

The Amazon Basin 

The Atlantic coast of Brazil 

West Africa 

Central and East Africa 


India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh 

Mainland Southeast Asia 

Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra 

The Philippines and Sabah 

Central Indonesia 

New Guinea 


The challenge of conservation 

Global policies for global problems 

Planning to conserve 

Natural forests for sustainable timber 


Resources for our future 

Protecting the forests 

International cooperation 

Think globally, act locally 

The crystal ball 















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ifjil rain lorcsls aw laiiioLisIy lan^^lcd. wt-l i\ni\ HIk 
spc'c-ii'S of plants and animals than an> diIut liali 
1. It is li'ss ofU'n said that thi'V aiv also unlailin^'ly 
lishmcnts. and it is that which over tho past 'A'i yv: 
n iiiL' batk to thi'm over and over ayain. 

At first si'dit. 


si'cm to ho none on the iri-ound. You may hear hirds lallin^ in tht' 
canopy oflcavcs 4.') metres (l.'iO feet) above you. and at times the 
air is filled with choruses ol'whislles and chirps, yelps and whirrs 
that you jfuesscome from either insects or frofis. Init there is little 
to be seen of the sin^'ers. Only as your eyes become more attuned 
are you likely to spot a bird, such as a trofjon. silting; motionless 
on a branch above, gravely watchinfj your every movement: and 
onl\' if you tread on it are you likely to be aware of the viper that 
lies curled and camouflaged among the litter of dead leaves on 
the ground. 

.As for the trees, they are dismayingly diflicidt to identify. 
Cylindrical, branchless trunks rise vertically around you like 
huge masts, rigged with lianas dangling from their crowns. You 
soon realize that identifying forest plants is hardly ever, as you 
may have supposed, a matter of iccognizing opulent and glamor- 
ous Mowers, but more likely a c|uestion of studying the finer 
details of bark. One pioneering botanist working in the forests of 
Southeast .Asia became so frustrated bv this that, in desperation. 

\'ou become aet'Ustomed to the ))lace and its 
irniity. You develop an eye for detail and start to 
;ual. Then the astonishments begin. The broad 

■asionally marked by a line of tiny holes on either side of its 
drib. Lift it and beneath yi>u hnd a lineof pure white bundles of 
• the' size and shape of golf balls. They are nomadic bats that 
\e built themselves a tcmporai'y encampment by biting 
■ou"h the side-veins of the leaf so that the two halves Hon down 

[I form a neat tent that shields them from the rain. In New 
inea. a shrieking chorus at dawn di-aws you to a tall tree: and 
■re in the upper biancbes you see a dozen lesser birds of 

branc-bes in the canopy and throw them down to him. 

golden ]dumes ei-ected over its liack in ecstatic display. .\nd the 
West ,\frican forest provides perhaps the most haunting exper- 
ience of all. .-\ trail of broken stems and crushed leaves through 
thickets of wild celery and giant stinging nettles two metres 
(seven feet) high may lead you to a meeting with one of our closest 
relations, a family of gorillas lounging on the ground as they feed 
on handfuls of leaves, the youngsters inijuisitive. energetic and 
impish, the mother toleiant and gentle, and the whole group 
watched over by a magnihcent. silver-backed male. 

Some of such marvels you may discover for yourself hut you 
will see much more if you can persuade some of the people who 
live in these ])laces to guide you. The cost is likely to include 
serious damage lo any pride you might have had in your 
expertise, either as a seasoned traveller or a sharp-eyed observer. 
These peo])le move through the foi'est so much more efficiently 

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Rain forests are unfailingly full of 
astonishments, and it is that which 
over the past 35 years has drawn me 

back to them over and over again. 

than you.Tlii'.v ni'vurslip. llicv lU'ver sufiii in liif. llicy sec 
thinsis loni; lit^foiv you do. mikI llu'V have lo lie |XTsiia(U'<l 
that unk'ss thoy point thum out you will not notice 
animals that they think are obvious. Most reniaikahle ol' 
all. they never seem to .net lost. Their knowledjje of the 
forest and its inhabitants is vast and detailed. Their 
elassi Heat ion of plants is certainly based on i|uite different 

understanding of 
put is the distil 
fieneralions. and 
rorei>;n scientist 

e uses to which forest plants may he 
ion of the experience of countless 
i still far beyond the i-esearehes of 
who have only jusl bei;un their 

r-romantic. indeed plain wroni;. t(j 

It would be over-romantic, indeed plain wroni;. t(j 
sufi.u'est that all these forest peoples, in addition to their 
othei- virtues, are archetypical conservationists, livint; in 
perfect harmony with nature. They will often take what 
they want from the forest with sublime disref;ard for any 
principle of conservation. They may fell a whole tree to sji^t 
a sins;le meal of fruit, or kill a bird for the transient 
pleasure of puttini; its plumes in their hair. That the forest 

numbers are so small and the areas over which they 
wander are so vast. 

Outsiders who intrude into the rain forests can find 
them uncomfortable, cruel places. Regular heavy rains do 
not .greatly trouble people who wear few clothes and carry 
little equipment, but a tender-skinned stran.ger is made 
wretched by such drenchings and is forced to come to 
terms with such frustrating occurences as mould growing 
across camera lenses, and insects eating the insidcs of 
books. Lacking traditional knowledge, the slrangei- has 
siri'at ditficultv in finding food. Leaves that look succulent 

that hunting them 
move into this sli-ar 

■ to he poisonmrs. h'ruits 
The animals are so wary 
y dilliciMt. Settlci-s who 
aid Hnd after they have 
at it is not. as they had 
On the contraiv. it is .so 

before relapsing into ncai'-stcrility. Long-distance travel- 
lers, whether .soldiers or traders, anxious to get from one 
side of the foiest to anothei'. become bogged down in 
endless (|uagmires. harassed by clouds of biting insects, 
and condemned to cross and recross the same river as it 
meandei's its way across their path. So it is not suiprising 
that for centuries the i-eaction of outsiders, by and large, 
was either to avoid the rain forests or to destroy them. 
Some of the giant trees could be sold foi- profit, but the i-est 
of the vegetation, with its multitude of inhabitants, could 
be destroyed without any qualms if anyone could think of 
something useful to be done with the land. 

Until recently that altitude had only a mai'ginal effect 
on the rain foix'sts. for the labour of cutting down the trees 
was huge and the demands for the land itself relatively 
small. But over the last half-century there wei'c two 
crucial changes. The human population began suddenly to 
increase with great rapidity; and immensely powerful 
machinery was developed that could bulldoze land clear 
and flat, and cut down a 100-year-old tree in ten minutes. 
So the destruction accelerated. Then a decade or so ago. 
the world suddenly saw that if such a pace were main- 
tained, the forests would disappear totally in the near 
future. Only at this late stage did we begin to realize what 
treasures these forests contained and how crucial they 
were for the ecological health of the planet as a whole. 

The alarm at this impending catastio|jhe was voiced 


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particularly loudly by people living far from the forests 
themselves. The smallholders living around the edges of 
the forests desperately hungry for land, the politicians of 
rain forest countries wrestling with urgent economic 
problems that they hoped could be lessened by the quick 
sale of timber - such people felt considerable outrage at 
preachings and pleadings from people living far away who 
had long since totally cleared their own forests and built 
their own industrial revolution on the proceeds. So 
Brazilians and Malaysians, West Africans and Papua New 
Guineans will doubtless be looking closely to see how 
wealthier nations treat the very few rain forests they have 
within their own frontiers. The Australians" treatment of 
their Queensland forests (see page 175) may well be seen as 
a measure of the sincerity of industrialized nations. 

.As concern has spread worldwide, so false rumours have 
started to circulate alongside the only-too-true facts. It is 
not the case that any form of exploitation damages the 
rain forest irrevocably, and that any kind of timber 
extraction must necessarily be disastrous. Although 
forests worldwide play a key role in storing carbon and 
releasing oxygen, rain forests alone are not the earth s 
lungs, and it is very doubtful if replacing them with 
agriculture and plantations would have a major effect on 
the all-impoi-tant oxygen cycle. Nor do we have evidence 
that hundreds, let alone thousands of species of rain forest 
animals and plants have been exterminated as a result of 
humanity's activities - yet. The crisis is too real, too 
urgently in need of practical solutions to allow exagge- 
rations and illusions such as these to get in the way. The 
facts themselves are alarming enough. 

The rain forests are indeed in great danger, but their 
loss is not inevitable. Plans to save them must be based on 
carefully gathered facts. .All our knowledge commercial 
as well as ecological, sociological as well as geographical, 
must be deployed to produce programmes that will 
reconcile the needs of the people who live in the forests 
and have the most immediate claims of ownership, with 
those of industrialists and politicians living around their 
margins, and thoseof the people in the world at large who. 
taking a more distant and long-term view, have realized 
that the tropical rain forests contain some of the world's 
greatest treasures and are an integral part of both its 
health and glory. 

This atlas, which publishes for the first time accurate 
maps of the past and present distribution of the forests 
worldwide, is a crucial step in that direction. 

-I^^O*-l^ p^rt<::£A-^ ^ 


[Main pic) Burned ram in 

What are rain forests? 

Many people's first experience of a rain forest is from a 
boat on a river winding slowly into seemingly impen- 
etrable jungle. Joseph Conrad captured the sense of 
foreboding and mystery of this apparently primeval wilderness in 
his novel Heart of Darkness set on the River Congo (now known as 
the Zaire): "Going up that river was like going back to 
beginnings, when vegetation rioted.. .and the trees were kings." 
The term "rain forest" was first coined in 1898 by a German 
botanist named Schimper, to describe forests that grow in 
constantly wet conditions. They can occur wherever the annual 
rainfall is more than 2,000 millimetres (80 inches) and evenly 
spread throughout the year. Rain forests are found in temperate 
as well as tropical regions, but the best-known ones, the subject of 
this book, occur in a belt around the equator. In rain forests the 
overhead canopy is closed, with few large gaps between trees, a 
feature that they share with the tropical seasonal forests that 
grow north and south of the rain forest belt. Tropical seasonal 
forests are less extensive than the true rain forests, but since they 
have many features in coiomon they are together often known as 
"moist forests". 

Rain forests can be divided into two broad categories according 
to altitude - lowland and montane rain forests. Lowland forests 
are by far the most extensive but, because they are easily 

accessible, they have suffered the most damage and clearance. 
They are also the most prolific of all the plant communities in the 
world. The canopy can reach more than 45 metres (150 feet) in 
height and consists of many different tree species living close 
together. A few trees, known as emergents, break through the 
canopy, often attaining heights of 60 metres (200 feet) with 
straight unbranched trunks up to 40-50 metres (130-165 feet). 
The tallest broad-leaf tree ever recorded from the tropics was a 
specimen of Koompassia excelsa from Sarawak, which was more 
than 83 metres (270 feet) tall. 

Montane rain forests are much smaller in stature, their growth 
restricted by a combination of low temperatures, unpredictable 
rainfall and the lack of nutrients at higher altitudes. These 
stunted forests play a key role in protecting the environment; 
without them, soil erosion in highlands and flash floods in 
lowlands are the damaging consequences. 

Mangrove forest is a type of rain forest found in silt-rich, saline 
coastal waters. The most extensive mangroves in the world are 
the Sundarbans in the Ganges delta. Another type of flooded 
forest is found along the banks of rain forest rivers, where lEirge 
areas of lowland forest are inundated with fresh water. These 
include the igapo and vdrzea forests of the Amazon Basin, and 
have been included in the lowland forest on the maps. 

Lowland rain forests are the most 
prolific of ^U the plant communities 
' in the world. 

Attracting birds - In order to 
attract bird pollinators, many 
rain forest plants have cploiirful 
flowers. The relationship between 
pollinator and flower is often 
very specific. 

Colourful food - The distinctive 
fruit of the zebra wood (Connarus 
sp.) found in the Cameroon rain 
forest advertises its presence to 
seed dispersers through its 
bright colour. 


humid;^ ^ ^__^ 

13bor of ;^?r^ .^, 
vturie^.'^li'elte. C 

exhibits a large tt 

different leaf shapes. 



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Lowland rain forests 

Mention the word "jungle" and the image that springs to most 
people's minds is that of a dark, oppressively hot and humid world 
with a profusion of hanging vines and creepers concealing any 
animal life. In reality, it is the lowland rain forest on well-drained 
soils in which the dense canopy prevents the strong sunlight from 
reaching the forest floor and also traps moisture. Along river 
banks and in forest clearings dense undergrowth defies entry into 
the forest but, like the set of a Hollywood western, it falls away in 
density behind the facade. Lowland is the most extensive type of 
rain forest and, as the name suggests, it is found in relatively low- 
lying areas - generally up to 900 metres (3,000 feet), but up to 1 ,800 
metres (6,000 feet) in western Amazonia (see pages 100-101). 

The great Amazon and Zaire River basins are the two largest 
intact regions of lowland rain forest in the world; most of the 
lowland forest in Southeast Asia, Central America and West 
Africa has now been fragmented and altered in one way or 
another. But parts of the Amazon Basin are now being cleared at 
an alarming rate, and increasing pressure is being put upon the 
African forests too. 

Botanists have identified as many as 40 different types of 
lowland rain forest, differing mainly because of unique patterns 
of rainfall, soil fertility and drainage. Although there are broad 
similarities in the physical appearance of the rain forests on 
different continents, the actual species they contain vary widely. 

Forests on dry land 

In regions with high rainfall, spread more or less equally through 
the year, the lowland forest is evergreen. Most of the trees do not 
shed their leaves at all, or do so at different times. In this type of 
forest, the abundance and diversity of tree species is unequalled 
in the world, and it is in these rain forests that many fine 
hardwoods grow. Although neither as tall nor as wide in girth as 
trees such as the Californian redwoods or Australian giant 
eucalypts, lowland rain forest hardwoods are highly prized by 
loggers. Hanging from the trees, and often connecting them at 
many different levels, are a mass of creepers and vines (lianas), 
and in the canopy there are many epiphytes (plants that live on 
other plants). 

A few degrees farther away from the equator, the climate 
becomes slightly more seasonal, rainfall is lowered for one or two 
months in the year and the forest becomes semi-evergreen in 
character. Up to one-third of the trees in semi-evergreen forest 
may be deciduous, but because each species sheds its leaves at its 
own time, there is no clear season of leaf-fall. In nature, evergreen 
rain forest grades almost imperceptibly into semi-evergreen rain 
forest, and the boundary between them has never been mapped 
precisely. To the casual observer there is very little difference in 
appearance between the two, but the canopy in a semi-evergreen 
forest is often not as high that in evergreen forest. 

Specialized forests 

In some relatively small areas, the presence of a particular type of 
soil or underlying rock has produced specialized lowland rain 
forests of various kinds. For example, on free-draining sandy soils 
heath forests may grow. These are known as kerangas in Borneo 
and as caatinga in South America. The plants have to cope with a 
poor supply of nutrients and often lack enough water for normal 
growth. Kerangas is characterized by an even canopy over a 
forest made up of many relatively slender trees. In heath forests 
there is an abundance of plants that have evolved elaborate ways 
of obtaining extra nutrients. Pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.) are 
common in kerangas and obtain nourishment by trapping insects; 
ant-plants such as Hydnophytum spp. obtain some of their food 
from ants in exchange for providing a nesting-place in the 
swollen root of the plant. 

Lowland rain forest growing over limestone base-rock has not 
been studied very much, but it is known to have many unique 
species. Such "limestone" forests are particularly common in 
Southeast Asia, and the limestone flora of Peninsular Malaysia 



Down by the river (above) - A 
river creates a gap in the forest 
canopy, a gap that is rapidly 
seized on by a multitude of young 
plants struggling for light on the 
river-bank, creating a wall of 

Support structure (left) - Where 
the soil is thin or subject to 
flooding, the trees may gain 
additional support through the 
use of buttress roots, which grow 
from the main trunk at up to 5 m 
(16.5 ft) above the ground. Where 
the canopy is relatively open, 
light can reach the forest floor 
which encourages the 
development of a lush 

Forest bounty (above) - When 
the fruit of the wild nutmeg 
(Myristica fragrans) is ripe it 
splits to reveal a crimson- 
coloured aril which surrounds 
the seed or nutmeg. Ground 
nutmeg was used by the Romans 
as incense, and from about 1600 it 
became an important commercial 
spice, being shipped from 
Indonesia to Europe. 


has more than 1.200 species. 130 of which are found nowhere else, 
l-imestone rain forests contain little commercial timber the 
growing conditions are generally poor but they are under 
constant threat from fire. In Indochina, they have been severely 
damaged and sometimes destroyed by fire. Even in the much 
wetter climate of Sarawak, limestone forests on hills are known 
to suffer fires caused by lightning strikes. 

Other lowland rain forest types include those on ultrabasic 
rocks, beach forests, liana forests and bamboo forests, all of 
which have their own special features and species. 

Flooded forests 

Throughout the tropics river levels can rise and fall dramatically, 
inundating large areas of lowland forest when the rivers burst 
their banks. Because of the stress caused by waterlogging of the 
root systems, these swamp forests often contain fewer tree species 
than well-drained forests. However, few generalizations are 
possible because they vary widely in terms of the amount of time 
spent underwater. Several different types of swamp forest are 
found in all thiee continental regions. 

Freshwater swamp forests were once widespread in Southeast 
Asia, especially along the banks of some of the region's largest 
rivers, such as the Mekong and Ayeyarwady in Myanma ( Burma ); 
good e.xamples remain the Fly and Sepik in New Guinea. The 
freshwater swamps of Kalimantan are the natural home of the 
sago palm {Eiigeissoiia iitilis) an important staple food. 

In the .Amazon Basin, the type of freshwater swamp forest 
found along the river bank depends on the water. Vdr^ea is found 
on the floodplains of "whitewater" rivers born in the .Andes, 
which carry huge amounts of silt and nutrients into the forest. 
The forest floor of rdrzea is formed by this sediment, which is 
trapped by the large buttress roots of the trees, gradually 
building up the level of the plains. This type of swamp forest is 
seasonally flooded and found along such whitewater rivers as the 
Madeira and the .Amazon. Below Manaus on the .Amazon, the 
rdrzea is often in a narrow band along the river bank, with grassy 
meadows inland: upstream of Manaus. the vdrzea is continuous 
and usually dotted with lakes. 

Igapo grows on the sandy floodplains of blackwater rivers, like 
the Rio Negro. Tapajos and the .Arapiuns. Here the water is a 
clear, dark brown colour caused by rotting plants, but it contains 
little suspended material. The sandy soil and clear water do not 
allow the soil to build up in the same way as it does in the rdrzea. 
In the dry season, it is usual to find sandy beaches with trees 
growing out of them. Igapo is usually flooded for between four and 
seven months each year, up to a height of 12 metres (40 feet). This 
does not kill the trees: life continues above the water level. 

Palms are often the dominant species in freshwater swamp 
forest of the Amazon, but trees such as the kapok or silk-cotton 
tree {Ceiha pentandra) with its giant buttressed roots, often form 
the main canopy. Most of the flooded forest plants flower in the 
dry season when the water is low. However, the kapok flowers in 
the high-water season, releasing cotton-like seeds that are blown 
in the wind and eventually swept away by the river. 

Low-growing plants, particularly in the igapo. can be sub- 
merged for most of the year, enjoying only a brief spell above 
water. They flower and grow fruit in this time, and capture as 
much sunlight as possible before being inundated once again. 
Saplings and seedlings can spend their fii-st 20 years only briefly 
seeing daylight above the water. 

Unlike freshwater swamp forest, which is regularly or occa- 
sionally flooded, peat swamp forest, when fully developed, rises 
above the flood water level. Peat swamps are present in some 
parts of the .Amazon Basin, and on some Caribbean islands. They 
are rare in .Africa, but common in Southeast Asia, covering 12 
percent of the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, as well as large 
areas in Irian Jaya. 

Flooded lowland rain forest, Amazonia. 








-^n . t: 

In peat swamps the solid fibrous crust, which is somewhat 
spongj' to walk on. covers a semi-liquid interior and the drainage 
waters are a rich dark colour. Plant growth on the peat is often 
zoned concentrically, the centre zone supporting the growth of 
very stunted plants with thin trunks, whereas the outer zones are 
dominated by larger trees which can reach up to 50 metres (160 
feet) in height. In Sarawak on the island of Borneo, some of the 
peat swamps have up to six recognizable zones. 

Variations around the world 

Throughout the world, rain forests share some general features, 
such as buttress roots and an abundance of lianas and epiphytes, 
but floristically they are almost totally different from one 
continent to the next. The tree Symphonia globulifera is one of 
very few rain forest species common to both the African region and 
South America, and the Bromeliaceae, an important family of 
epiphytic and other plants in South America, has only one species 
in Africa. Despite the fact that these two continents share so few 
species, they have more in common at the family level. Both have 
many species of the major tree families - Meliaceae (mahoganies), 
Sapotaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Leguminosae. In contrast, the 
rain forests of Southeast Asia are dominated by giant trees from 
the family Dipterocarpaceae. which are almost absent from Africa 
and South America. Dipterocarps flower very irregularly, proba- 
bly triggered by droughts at intervals of between five and nine 
years. In a "dipterocarp year" the forest canopy becomes a mass of 
colour as one species after another comes into flower. 

Species diversity seems to be highest in the South American 
rain forests, where at least 30,000 species of higher plants occur, 
and lowest in Africa (including Madagascar) which has about 
17,000. The forests of Southeast Asia include about 25.000 species 
of flowering plant, but there are fewer farther east towards the 
Pacific, where only about 4.000 species are found. 

Local species densities are also often impressive, and ecolo- 
gists working in the rain forest regularly break each other's 
records. The highest recorded density of species is 233 in only 100 
square metres (120 square yards) found in a Costa Rican rain 
forest. Other impressive records include 1.025 higher plant 
species in 170 hectares (420 acres) of rain forest in coastal 
Ecuador, and 350 species in half a hectare (1.2 acres) in Ghana. 

Moving away from the equator 

In tropical regions where rainfall is more markedly seasonal and 
there are three or more dry months each year, the tropical forests 
become deciduous in nature, shedding their leaves during the dry 
season. In Asia, they are known as "monsoon forests", since they 
come into leaf during the onset of the annual monsoon, and they 
are most widespread in parts of Indonesia. In both Africa and 
Southeast Asia there is very little seasonal forest left; most of it 
has been both cleared and burned in the past by himians. In many 
parts of Africa, seasonal forest has been degraded to savanna 
woodland which has a grassy floor and grows right up to the edge 
of the rain forest. In South America, forests growing in seasonal 
climates tend to hold their leaves longer and some are even 
evergreen, which makes them less prone to fire damage. 

One of the main factors that differentiates seasonal forest types 
from true rain forest is the lack of climbing plants which link the 
trees together. These cannot survive in the drier air, and their 
absence serves further to reduce the amount of moisture in the 
interior of the forest. During the dry season, the trees lose their 
leaves, increasing the amount of light able to reach the forest 
floor, enabling many more plants to grow there. Many trees 
flower in the dry season, their colours exaggerating the leafless- 
ness of their surroundings. 

Human impact on the forests 

Himian activity in the lowland forest does not necessarily mean 
that it is permanently cleared away and converted to other uses. 
After being logged or used for agriculture, the forest may be 

allowed to regrow into what is often called "disturbed" or 
"secondary" forest. These forests are arguably even more 
variable than the more natural forests in which they have their 
origin. Many authors use the term "disturbed" (sometimes 
"degraded" or "logged-over") to describe those forests that have 
been subjected to logging, while the term "secondary" is reserved 
for those that have regrown after complete forest clearance 
(usually by shifting cultivators). Disturbed or logged-over forests 
can be extremely difficult to identify, even for an expert, after a 
few decades of regrowth. Of course, this depends upon the 
original intensity of logging. In Central Africa, where only one 
tree may be removed per hectare, very little damage is done; in 
Sabah or the Philippines, however, most of the trees are either 
removed or destroyed in the logging operations. 

Secondary lowland forest is full of fast-growing "pioneer" 
species that have invaded the abandoned farmland, and is 
floristically quite different from its more mature antecedents. 
This regrowth is in fact more "jungle-like" than primary forest, 
due to the mass of herbs, shrubs, lianas and young trees that cover 
the forest floor. In contrast, it is relatively easy to walk through a 
stretch of primary lowland forest since the interior of the forest is 
so dark that little grows on the forest floor. 

Roots {above) - The floor of this 
rain forest in Costa Rica is criss- 
crossed with buttress roots which 
stabilize the trees and soil. 

Popular stimulant {left) - The 
seeds of the guarana (Paullinia 
cupana) contain about 3 times as 
much caffeine as coffee. They are 
used to produce a tonic that is 
sold throughout South America. 

Dipterocarp forest (right) - 
From a high vantage point it is 
possible to see tall dipterocarps 
rising above the canopy in this 
Malaysian forest, creating a charac- 
teristic billowing appearance. 




Mangrove forests 

The shores of the tropics often support mangrove forest, a special 
type of rain forest which is poor in its variety of species. 
Mangrove forests are the normal plant communities of sheltered 
tropical shores, but they can extend to about 32°N and even 
farther from the equator in the southern hemisphere. The biggest 
and richest mangroves are in the wet tropics where the rain 
forests are found, particularly on the coast of Bangladesh, the 
Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, New Guinea and the other 
islands scattered throughout Southeast Asia. 

Mangroves are evergreen trees and shrubs which although 
they belong to several unrelated families share a similar habitat, 
namely silt-rich soils in saline coastal waters. These plants show 
a number of adaptations to the salty environment including 
pneumatophores or breathing roots. These emerge from the 
waterlogged mud into the air, where they can absorb oxygen 
needed by the root system. Such roots can also occur in other 
types of waterlogged forest, particularly freshwater swamp 
forest. The breathing function allows the tree to live in soil 
almost totally deficient in oxygen, but they also have another 
purpose. In mangrove forests the soil level is constantly rising 
and the pneumatophores enable the tree to produce a fresh crop of 
rootlets at successively higher levels. The absorptive part of the 
root system is kept near the surface of the soil while the deeper 
roots anchor the tree into the ground. 

Mangrove forest can be as much as 30 metres (100 feet) tall or be 
limited to a poor shrub only a few metres high. On the edges of a 
mangrove forest, where the trees either stand in the sea or on mud 
flats which only dry out at low tide, the roots provide a backdrop 
for large numbers of birds, crabs and molluscs. Moving deeper 
into the forest, the trees become higher and more impenetrable. 

Mangroves around the world 

The world's mangroves can be broadly divided into two groups; 
an eastern group on the coasts of the Indian and western Pacific 

oceans, and a western group on the coasts of the Americas, the 
Caribbean and West Africa. They share many similarities, but the 
eastern forests have a greater variety of species. All the genera of 
the western group are found in the east, but the species are 
different. Only Fiji and the Tonga Islands, in the Pacific, have an 
eastern as well as a western species, Rhizophora mucronata and 
Rhizophora mangle. 

The biggest mangrove forests are the Sundarbans of the 
Ganges Delta, which straddle the borders of India and Bangla- 
desh. In Asia, mangrove forest has been e.xtensively cleared for 
development offish and prawn pools. Most of the mangroves that 
were once commonly found around many of the Philippine 
islands have now been removed for this purpose. Less permanent 
degradation results from the use of mangrove bark for tanning, 
trunks for building and branches for firewood. Of particular 
concern is clear felling of Asian mangrove forests for the 
production of paper in Japan. In particular, Irian Jaya's large 
mangrove forests are beginning to attract the attention of paper 
companies worldwide. 

The Amazonian mangrove forests occur only in a narrow 
coastal belt, and only the larger areas have been shown in the 
map section. Speciation is again poor, the major species being 
Rhizophora mangle, Avicennia nitida, Laguncularia racemosa 
and Conocarpus erectus. Whereas true mangrove - Rhizophora - 
only extends as far as the influence of salt water, white mangrove 
or Avicennia winds deep inland into freshwater areas. Rhizo- 
phora typica is widespread in the mangroves around Aracaju and 
Recife on Brazil's Atlantic coast, extending up rivers as far as 20 
kilometres (12 miles) inland. Rhizophora racemosa is more 
common near Marajo Island in the mouth of the Amazon and from 
there to Guyana. Mangrove forests are also found on the north 
coast of Brazil, between Maraca Island and the border with 
French Guiana, a muddy region with few sandy beaches caused 
by the marine current that carries the sediment further west. 

Designed to stick (above) - The 
seeds of some mangroves are long 
and pointed so that when they 
drop from the parent plant they 
stick into the mud below, thus 
reducing the chances of being 
washed away. 

Mangrove roots (left) - Among 
the tangle of roots that anchor 
the mangrove, small finger-like 
breathing roots (pneumato- 
phores) stick up through the 
mud and young saplings grow 
near to their parent. 

The mangrove edge (right) - On 
the coast of Queensland in 
Australia, 2 types of rain forest 
can be seen side by side. Twisted 
roots characterize the mangrove 
forest at the water's edge; inland, 
lowland rain forest rises up from 
the shore. 




Montane rain forests 

At higher altitudes on forested mountains in the tropics, the hot, 
sticky humidity of the lowland rain forest gives way to a cooler 
dampness. As the climate changes, so do the flora and fauna: 
above 900 metres (3,000 feet), the species found are usually rather 
different from those lower down. These high-altitude or montane 
forests are generally further subdivided into recognizable bands: 
lower montane forest (often in the 900-2,000 metre (3,000-6,600 
feet) range), upper montane forest (in the 2,000-3,200 metre 
(6,600-10,500 feet) range) and subalpine forest (which may extend 
as high as 3,800 metres (12,500 feet)). Mists often engulf the forest 
canopy, accounting for the evocative name "cloud forest". Light 
levels are greatly reduced and the foliage literally drips with 
water that condenses out from the air. 

The canopy drops rapidly at higher altitudes. In the lower 
montane formations 15-33 metres (50-110 feet) is usual, whereas 
in the upper montane forest it may be reduced to little more than 
the height of a person. Features of the lowland forests, such as 
buttressed roots and fruits growing on tree trunks, disappear. 
Lichens hang like beards from the uppermost branches, and the 
trunks and forest floor are covered in bright green mosses, oozing 
water. Filmy ferns and other epiphytes, including orchids and 
bromeliads, become quite common. Trees lose the straight, 
unbranched trunks of the lowlands and become gnarled, twisted 
and often multi-stemmed. The tops of the trees are no longer 
irregular and billowing, but more even and flat. Even the leaves 
are much smaller, narrower and more leathery. 

In the tropics the average temperature falls by between 0.4- 
0.7°C (0.7-1.3°F) with every 100 metres (330 feet) gained in 
altitude. Heavy rainfall and less evaporation, due to the low 
temperatures, combine with strong winds to restrict plant 
growth. Decomposition is slowed down, as well as growth. Deep 
layers of waterlogged peat accumulate in valleys. Termites cannot 
survive up here, but the soil contains large earthworms andbeetle 
larvae. As nutrients are only slowly released, specially adapted 
plants, such as the pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.) occur here. 

Most lowland species cannot survive at these altitudes, and 
specialist trees more reminiscent of families in the temperate 
latitudes, such as oaks, beeches and laurels, become more 
common. Overall there are far fewer species than are found in the 
lowlands, but many cold-adapted groups come into their own. 
Giant heathers and rhododendrons from the family Ericaceae 
occur on mountain-tops in Asia. Conifers, generally found only in 
nutrient-poor conditions in the lowlands, become more common 
at altitude, particularly in Asia, where species oi Dacrydium and 
Podocarpus are prominent. Podocarpus forests are also found in 
Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, but large areas have been 
cleared. Araucaria species become widespread at high altitudes 
in the Andes of southern Brazil, but these are also important 
timber trees and are now endangered in the wild. 

In Africa, montane forests are scattered over the continent, 
notably in Ethiopia, the highlands of the Rwanda-Burundi-Zaire 
border, Kenya, northern Tanzania and Cameroon. Bamboo is 
widespread at between 2,500 and 3,000 metres (8,200-9,800 feet), 
and coniferous junipers (Juniperus spp.) and Podocarpus forests 
occur higher up. Many isolated montane forests have their own 
unique assemblages of plants and animals, and are of particular 
conservation importance. 

A survey of Malaysian flowering plants revealed that nearly 
every plant family was restricted to a certain altitude range. 
However, similar studies in New Guinea have shown that many 
species span the whole range of altitudes, although with 
increasing altitude the plants are smaller, and some become 
multi-stemmed, with smaller, mature leaves. 

The distribution of animals is also affected by altitude, 
depending on their eating habits and differing lifestyles. In 
general, the number of omnivores usually does not decline with 
altitude, although fruit eaters, predators and scavengers become 
less common higher up. The number of insect, bird and reptile 
species also drops with altitude. 




a^:j^ *etf 

I Why we need rain forests 

hroughout history, people have cut down trees, and 
converted forests into land for farming and other such * 
- "productive" uses. For example, much of Europe was 
densely forested l.OOOyears ago. Converting these forests to other f' 
land uses has fuelled the phenomenal social, economic and 
technological development that has ensued. Now tropical coun- 
tries are developing rapidly. If they follow the model of the y_ 
industrialized northern nations, why should they not cut down 
their forests, clear the land, and turn it over to agriculture or 
industry? Together, tropical rain forests cover a land area the size 
of the United States. Is this not j ust wasted landwaitingtobeused? ' 

Such arguments are not only out of fashion these days, they are 
also wrong. The rapidly "greening" consumer society in the 
affluent northern nations is rallying behind environmentalists to 
preserve the rain forests, and there is a sound scientific basis to 
this movement. But what is it about rain forests that causes such 
strong feelings? Do we really need them at all? 

It is vital to realize that tropical forests are qualitatively 
different from temperate forests. We have been able to cut down 
huge areas of temperate forest and convert the land for agricul- 
tural purposes without any obvious detrimental effects. In a 
sense, clearing the temperate forests has been a precursor to 
development; clearing tropical rain forests, on the other hand, . 
could be a precursor to disaster - both for the people in the I, 
developing tropical nations, and the entire human race. "■, 

The point is that people - all people on earth - need tropical . 
rain forests. At the most fundamental level, rain forests provide a 
home for millions of tribal people, who have adapted to life in this ' 
unique habitat (see pages 90-95). Surely they have a right to . 
continue living in their traditional lands. For them, the forests 
provide shelter, animal and plant products, and food. In short, 
their whole livelihood rests there. L . 

But many other people, who do not actually live in the forests, 
rely on them just as much as the tribespeople. Rain forests appear 
robust and impenetrable, but in reality they are ecologically very \ 
fragile. Most rain forest soils are almost infertile, being poor in 
nutrients and susceptible to erosion. Lose the tree cover, and the 
root systems that hold these forests together, and the little 
fertility that remains, or even the very land itself, may be lost. 
Rains in tropical regions are not like the gentle drizzles of 
temperate climes; instead they come in short, sharp downpours 
which leach out the nutrients in the soil and quickly erode i 
exposed topsoil. Tropical forests break the impact of these sudden 
storms. Not only is the soil protected, but the water supply is 
regulated. Forests receive intermittent doses of heavy rain, but 
give out a steady supply of water, which is currently taken for |»' 
granted by millions of people downstream. They also play a 
crucial role in regulating local rainfall patterns. 

The fact is that most tropical soils can sustain only slow- , f 
growing trees; only relatively small areas are fertile enough and 
stable enough to be suitable for agriculture, a situation funda- 
mentally different from that in more temperate latitudes. In 
addition, the real effects on the world's climate of burning the last 
great reserves of organic carbon can only be guessed at. i^ 

As if all this is not enough, cutting down rain forests may have 
other equally important consequences. Rain forests differ from 
temperate forests in the sheer range and diversity of life that 
thrives under the canopy. It is now known that although they 
cover less than about six percent of the earth's land area, they 
contain more than 50 percent of all species. It is essential to 
preserve this biological diversity. The genetic resources con- 
tained in the forests are the common heritage of humankind, and 
may well prove to be vitally important to the future welfare of the ■ 
human race. Already many important medicines and drugs are ' 
derived from plant species unique to rain forests, and scientists 
believe that many more will be discovered. We are in danger of 
finding that, just when the lid on Nature's medicine chest is being 
opened, we have lost the contents. Extinction is for ever. 

I ^* A 

. ^*H 


The point is that people - all people 
on earth - need tropical rain forests. 


Forest dwellers - To those who 
hve within the rain forest, such as 
the Kayapo Indians in the 
Amazon Basin, their surroundings 
provide all that they need 
including the materials to make 
a hammock. 

Landless settlers - For those 
escaping from the poverty in 
urban slums, forested land can 
be used to start a new life. But 
with little knowledge of their 
new environment, they are 
often unsuccessful. 

City dwellers (main pic) The populations of large urban 

centres, both in the industrialized world and the Third 

World, rely on the rain forests not only for such products as 

timber and medicines, but also for a stable climate. 

The human factor 

Rain forests have long provided a home for people. Scientists 
have unearthed 12,000 years of human habitation in the Amazon 
Basin, and 39,000 year-old artefacts have been excavated from 
caves in the Bornean jungle. Today, it is estimated that as many 
as 50 million tribal people may still live within the world's 
tropical forests. For these people the forest is their home, their 
spiritual base, and the source of their food and clothing. 

Generally these hunter-gatherers (see pages 92-93), hunter- 
gardeners or shifting cultivators (see pages 94-95) live in small 
communities, often with highly developed social and cultural 
systems. But most importantly, these people know and under- 
stand the importance of the forest to them as the source of their 
whole livelihood. Some have developed remarkable ways of using 
it in a sustainable way for their needs. 

Although tribal people most obviously need rain forests, they 
are not the only ones for whom these forests provide a livelihood. 
The seringurios or rubber tappers of Brazil (see page 124) rely on 
rain forests for their living. The murder in 1988 of Chico Mendes, 
a former president of the rubber tappers' union, has done much to 
publicize their plight - and underlined the point that the forest is 
needed intact, as a valuable economic resource. 

Very few rural settlers realize the importance of maintaining 
the forest intact. Nor do they understand how to manage it in a 
sustainable way. Throughout the developing world, unequal land 
ownership is forcing people either to head for the cities, or to 
carve out a new life in the forests by using the roads made by 
logging and raining companies. 

Wood as timber and fuel 

Tropical forests are also important to more than two-thirds of the 
people living in developing countries (mainly the rural poor), 
who depend on wood for their household energy needs. In several 
parts of the world where population pressure is heavy, there is an 
impending shortage of fuelwood as forests are hacked away. Sub- 
Saharan Africa, parts of China and the Indian subcontinent are 
particularly badly affected. Collection of fuelwood (normally the 
task of women) is beginning to dominate the lives of millions of 
rural people, taking up an increasing proportion of their time. 

This is an issue that relates more to the drier seasonal forests and 
woodlands, rather than wet rain forests - mainly because popu- 
lation pressure is not yet as great in or around the existing rain 
forests. But it highlights the importance of all forests as a source of 
wood, and makes the wastage of wood, either through burning or 
just leaving whole trees to rot away, all the more frustrating. 

To people in the timber trade, rain forests are an important 
source of fine hardwood timber. The international tropical timber 
trade, now a multi-million dollar business, is rapidly realizing 
that if the forests die, so does the trade; and none of the producer 
countries, the merchants, or consumers wants that. Only if 
commercially logged forest can be maintained as forest is there 
any hope of achieving a long-term supply of the hardwoods prized 
by furniture-makers, boat-builders and interior designers, 
because it is not possible to produce the same range of tropical 
hardwoods in plantations. 

Ultimately, rain forests are important because people need 
them. Those who have adapted to life within the forests require 
them for their everyday needs; and responsible logging compa- 
nies need the timber, but realize that forest cover must remain 
intact if there is to be any hope of a sustainable timber harvest. 

The threat to the forests continues to be the competing needs of 
burgeoning populations of agricultural colonists, and the greed 
of timber merchants looking for a quick profit. The plight of the 
colonists attracts some sympathy - their lot can be improved only 
through changes in government policy and land-tenure laws - but 
careless commercial logging is inexcusable, given the profits that 
timber companies make. It remains to be seen whether the 
competing needs of tribal peoples, the rural poor and the 
commercial logging companies can be resolved. 
















Fuel for fires {above) - The 
Yanomami sometimes travel long 
distances to collect wood to use 
as fuel for cooking. Although 
some of their diet comprises raw 
vegetable matter, a large 
proportion is fresh meat 
(including fish, monkeys and wild 
pigs) which has to be cooked. 

Rubber (right) - To collect latex, 
the raw material for rubber, a 
number of slanting cuts are made 
in the trunk of the rubber tree 
(Hevea brasiliensis). The latex 
oozes from these cuts and runs 
downwards into a small cup 
attached below. 






'i J. 



Made in the rain forest 

A recent study by a team headed by Dr Charles Peters, of the 
Institute of Economic Botany in New York, claims that fruits and 
latex represent more than 90 percent of the total market value of 
the section of Amazonian forest they studied; "The results from 
our study clearly demonstrate the importance of non-wood forest 
products. These resources not only yield higher net revenues per 
hectare than timber, but they can also be harvested with 
considerably less damage to the forest." 

Forest products such as nuts, fruits, rubber and rattan all grow 
naturally and are harvested locally, but they have never been 
seriously considered by economists as part of the overall 
commercial value of a rain forest. Peters suggests that this is 
because timber is a high-profile export sold in international 
markets, and thus is highly visible. Non-wood resources are 
collected and sold in local markets by a large number of local 
people; their value is hard to monitor and easy to overlook. From 
the point of view of the government of a developing country, 
timber is more easily sold for hard currency which can be used to 
service international debts. 

The idea that rain forests can produce more than timber is not a 
new one in the tropical world. Indeed, it has been the basis for 
local economies in the forests for thousands of years. The bias 
towards timber as the only worthwhile commercial product may 
stem from the fact that the methods used by logging companies 
originated in Europe. There are qualitative differences between 
tropical and temperate forests that are still not fully appreciated 
in Europe, North America and Japan; in the forests in these 
regions there is very little commercial value beyond the timber, 
whereas tropical forests are far richer in other potentially 
valuable products. Overlooking the non-wood products may be a 
case of the application of Western thinking and techniques to 
tropical forests in inappropriate ways. 

New values 

The new thinking is towards using tropical rain forests as 
"extractive reserves", from which a wide range of products can be 
harvested on a sustainable basis, including some timber. But the 
only way in which this will become a viable reality is if a market 
for such products is created in the industrialized world. Professor 
Ghillean Prance, the Director of Kew Gardens in London, has 
called on Western companies to create and develop just such 
markets, and several are already investigating new ways of using 
non-wood forest products. 

Some of the nuts and other rain forest products are already 
familiar, but others are entirely new. For example, Peruvians are 
used to eating ice cream coloured and flavoured with the purple 
fruit of the mauitia palm. A company in the United States is now 
marketing "Rain forest Crunch" - an ice cream made with brazil 
nuts gathered wild and cashews from replanted areas. 

In the United Kingdom, one "green" company is looking into 
the marketing of a wide range of forest products, ranging from 
aromatic bath oils and body creams to new pot-pourris. Resins, 
latex and additives for cosmetics are being investigated. But the 
scope is even more wide-ranging than this. At least 1,650 known 
tropical forest plants have potential as vegetable crops, and the 
sap of the Amazonian tree Copaifera langsdorfia is so similar to 
diesel fuel that it can be used in truck engines. 

Rattan is a non-wood product that is already used extensively 
for furniture manufacture: it grows as a creeper on trees in the 
forest. Currently rattan fetches much more per tonne than does 
timber. Rattan can be sustainably harvested from the forest - 
provided that the forest is maintained intact. The world rattan 
trade is worth about US$2 billion annually - but is now under 
threat in Southeast Asia because so much forest has been lost. 

If non-wood forest products can be viewed as viable high-value 
exports, rather than just entities traded at local markets, 
governments of developing tropical nations will be much more 
inclined to safeguard the future supply of these products. 
Safeguarding supply of these implies safeguEirding the forests. 

Palm weaving (top) - The 
Kanela Indians of northeast 
Brazil use local palms for 
weaving baskets and mats which 
they use in their everyday lives; 
these and other artifacts may 
also be used to barter with other 
nearby communities. 

Fruit harvest (above) - In the 
state of Rondonia in Brazil, the 
Urea-Wau-Wau Indians collect 
many different fruits from the 
rain forests including those of 
the pupunha palm (Bactris spp.). 
After cooking, the flesh of the 
orange fruit is edible and highly 
nutritious. These and many other 
non-wood forest products are 
vital to the Indians. 







Apiarist at work - The 

knowledge of the local people 
includes their method of 
collecting honey, using a specific 
type of moss that burns very 
slowly, gives off clouds of smoke 
and stupefies the bees. First the 
moss has to be harvested and 
very carefully set alight. 

Kilum: making the forests pay 

Few examples exist of forests that are being exploited 
sustainably. Yet in the remote Bamenda highlands of 
Cameroon a development project is demonstrating that 
this is possible. The Kilum Project - launched by the 
International Council for Bird Preservation in 1987 - is, 
first and foremost, a conservation project. Its 120 square 
kilometres (45 square miles) of surviving forest contains 
the best Podocarpuslhsumboo forest outside East Africa, 
and shelters a number of rare and threatened species. But 
John and Heather Parrott, project coordinators, realize 
that conservation of the forest is impossible without 
ensuring some benefit to the local people who live beside 
the forest and who have traditionally looked upon it as a 
provider of food, medicine, wealth and cultural resources. 
By tradition the Kilum region is famed for its numerous 
species of medicinal plants and the skill of local people in 
their use. The Project is thus encouraging managed 
exploitation within the reserve, and traditional doctors 
are issued permits for the gathering of medicinal plants. 
Similarly, the felling of trees for the carving of traditional 

Passing on knowledge (left) - 
The chief of the Oku tribe of the 
Kilum highlands holds the plants 
and plant products of the local 
rain forest. It is his responsibility 
to ensure that the tribe's 
intimate knowledge of the forest 
vegetation is passed on to the 
Kilum Project. 

Local symbol (above) - 
Bannerman's turaco (Tauraco 
bannermani), which is featured 
on the Kilum Project logo, is 
found only in the montane forests 
of this part of Cameroon. Its head 
feathers are worn by local tribal 
chiefs as a symbol of their 
authority, and its local name, fen, 
has been adopted as the name of 
the Projecc's newsletter. 

artifacts for cultural or religious purposes is controlled by 
strict licensing laws, and stipulates regular replanting 
within and around the forest. Various related forest-based 
industries are also being evaluated, surrounded by 
equally strict regulations, such as the production of high- 
quality hand-crafted paper from the inner bark ol Lasiosi- 
phon glaucus, common on the forest's edge. The sole 
occupation of many households, on the other hand, is the 
collection of honey from hives in the forest: this too is a 
sustainable resource. Recognizing in both cases the 
economic potential in these occupations, the coordinators 
have encouraged the creation of honey and handicraft 
cooperatives. Production of honey is now approaching 500 
tonnes (440 US tons) a year. 

According to John Parrot, "with the extraction of any 
forest product it is essential to monitor the level of 
exploitation to ensure a sustainable yield." If properly 
managed, he believes, the potential is immense. Yet the 
basis for any long-term industry lies with the local 
people who possess such intricate knowledge of the forest. 



The world's genetic library 

: The diversity of life in a rain forest is truly astounding. At 
Yanomono, near Iquitos in the Peruvian rain forest, Alwyn 
Gentry, a botanist from Missouri Botanical Garden, noted 300 
species of tree with a trunk diameter of ten centimetres (four 
inches) or more. Compare that with a temperate forest, which 
usually contains about a dozen different species per hectare. Rain 
forests are also buzzing with animal life. Recent research 
suggests that they could hold as many as 30 million different 
species of insect. 

In terms of sheer biological diversity, Latin America is 
probably the richest region, followed by Southeast Asia. For 
example, Colombia possesses an estimated 25,000 indigenous 
plant species - as many as are found in the whole of Southeast 
Asia, an area four times larger than Colombia. The United States, 
by comparison, contains about 17,000 plant species. 

There are great variations in diversity not only between 
different continents, but also at a local level. Forest type, 
altitude, rainfall, humidity and temperature all make a difference 
to the type and number of species found. The most diverse areas ; 
are those which survived the last Ice Age. During this period, 
much of the Amazon Basin was transformed into savanna. Only 

' sixteen patches of forests survived from earlier times. Today, 
these areas, along with similar ones in Africa, contain excep- 
tional biological diversity (see page 50) and should be conserved 
as a global heritage. 

The rain forest is a seething interaction of myriad species, 
which together make up the ecosystem. However, such a complex 
system is very delicately balanced. It may take only a relatively 
small change - for example, a slight climatic alteration, or *- 
interference by humans - to disrupt the whole system and send 
hundreds of species to extinction. Some scientists fear that up to ' 
50 species become extinct each day due to rain forest clearance. 


Making use of the genes 

"I believe that the world is a poorer place for each species that we ^ 
lose," said author and naturalist Gerald Durrell. And he is right 
in more than one sense: extinction is not just a moral issue, 
involving responsibility for the loss of individual species; each ^ 
extinction also represents a loss of unique genetic material. The 
tropical rain forests are a storehouse for more than 50 percent of fr 
the world's genetic material, and the importance of maintaining r 
this material cannot be overemphasized. ■ 

In agriculture the range of different crops planted around the ■ 
world has been reduced dramatically in recent times, even as 
yields increased on average by at least 100 percent between 1930 
and 1975. About half of this increase can be credited to genetic 
improvement and cross-breeding. Globally, we now rely on just 
eight crops to provide 75 percent of the world's food. This lack of , ,^ 
diversity renders us extremely vulnerable to foodcrop pests and '.y .■■ 
diseases, and climatic change. In future, wild plant species may v^S^. 
prove vital to adapt current varieties to new conditions. f- -^^ 

Botanic gardens and gene banks around the world provide safe 
havens for a wide range of plants. In 1985, the World Wide Fund 
for Nature and lUCN set up the Botanic Gardens Conservation 
Secretariat, which aims to expand the role of botanic gardens in 
conserving threatened plant species. Today the Secretariat has .»■ 
more than 200 members, including gardens in Latin America, 
Africa and Southeast Asia. Scientists have a mammoth task 
ahead, to identify and rescue as many new discoveries as possible 
before possible extinction. '': ' 

At the moment, fewer than one percent of tropical rain forest J • , 
plants have been chemically screened for useful medicinal 1 
properties. Yet more than 1,400 species are thought to have anti- |»j* ^i 
cancer properties, and many rain forest products are vital to ^^JT- 
today's pharmaceutical industry. An average of one in four of all 
purchases from high-street chemists (drug stores) contains 
compounds derived from rain forest species. But scientists 
believe that we are only scratching the surface. 







From forest to laboratory - It is the vegetation on and just 

above the nutrient-poor soil, that is most rich in potentially 

useful plants (main pic). To store the seeds of these plants for 

future research, refrigerated seed banks (inset) are used. 

Protecting our environment 

The environmental effects of destroyins: huire tracts of rain forest 
are soniethinf; frequently discussed, but not always well under- 
stood. All forests are an intcfirai part of the earth's life-support 
systems, and play an important part in ref;ulatin^' climate and 
hydrolo.sjical cycles, as well as maintainint; and conservins; soils. 
But. because of the unique nature of rain forests, the environ- 
mental effects of cleai'ini; them are much more damajiing than 
those expei'ienced after foi'est clearance in temperate lands. 

Tropical rain forest nations are cutting; their own throats by 
cuttins; down their forests. Deforestinfj hillsides allows the heavy 
ti'opical rains to wash away whatever thin and frafiile soil there 
is. .-\ study in Cote d' I voire showed that the annual loss of soil on a 
foiested slope was 30 kilogrammes per hectare (UiO pounds pel- 
acre); by contrast, a similar deforested slope lost a stasisierinj; l:i.s 
tonnes (1:^1 US tons) of soil a year. 

Deforestation is also responsible for Hooding and di'oughts in 
many tropical foi-esi countries. Rain forests, with their thick 
foliage and complex root systems. I'egulate water siqjplies. 
'fypically. in a well-forested watershed. 9-5 percent oi'lhe annual 
rainfall is detained in the sponge-like network of roots in the soil. 
.\ lot of this water is released back into the atmosphere by 
evaporation and transpiration (the process by which water is 
drawn up from the roots of a plant and evaporated from its 
leaves), thus reducing the total water run-off. but the remainder 
is released slowly throughout the year, keeping streams and 
rivers flowing even during dry seasons. 

Cdobally. more than one billion people depend on water from 
tropical forests for drinking and crop irrigation. Without the 
regulatory function of the rain forests, heavy rains result in 
floods and landslides, whereas rivers dry up if the rains are poor. 
Floods in Thailand in Decemhei- 1988 cost -150 lives and caused 
damage to property worth hundreds of millions of dollars. 'I'he 

huge amounts ol 
studv in this Held 

has found that 10 20 percent less water evaporate 
areas than from forested areas. Cutting down t 
reduces atmospheric humidity and so reduces rail 

organisms, are 

The climatic effects of tropical rain forests are so powerful that 
they are felt thousands of miles away from the tropics. By 
pumping enormous quantities of water into the atmosphere, they 
have a cooling effect in the tropical regions, and act to warm the 
higher latitudes. There are two effects at work here. First, the 
clouds generated over the forests reflect sunlight away from the 
tropics. Second, evaporation cools the leaves of the trees, and as 
the water vapour condenses in the clouds above the forest the 
heal is regenerated. Because the circulation of the air masses is 
away from the equator to the higher latitudes, a proportion of this 
heat is transported outside the tropics to cooler latitudes. 

The animal and plants of the rain forest, just like all other 
living organisms, are based on carbon (see page 57). As rain 
forests are such a concentration of life, they contain Hugh 
amounts of carbon. When they are burned, this carbon is released 
into the air as carbon dioxide (CO^). which is one of several 
greenhouse gases that occur naturally in the atmosphere and 
help to regulate temperatures on the earth's surface. During the 
last hundred years, the amount of COo in the atmosphere has 
increased steadily. Most of this increase can be accounted for by 
the burning of fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil). These fuels are 
essentially carbon compounds created thousands of years ago 
from dead plants and animals. Currently, about Hve billion 
tonnes (1.1 billion US tons) of carbon as CO^. are pumped into the 
atmosphere from chimneys and exhaust pipes. The contribution 
made by the burning of forests is much harder to calculate, but 
mav account for a further one billion tonnes (0.88 billion US tons) 

CO^, and incorporate; 

atmospheric COj is to plant more trees. .Asa tree grows, it absor 
CO^, and incorporates the carbon into its cells. When mature, it 
in balance with the atmosphere, releasing about the same amou 
of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through respiration as 
absorbs through photosynthesis. 

Large-scale deforestation in the tropics thus threatens 
change global climatic systems, by altering the mechanisms 
which heat is transferred to higher latitudes. N'o one can predi 
with any certainty the otitcome for the global climate ilthis we 
to occur. If deforestation continues at the present rate, t 
amount of forest burning will increase, adding to the grec 
house eff'ect. 

rougn respiration as 

N'o one can predict 

Recycled rain 

A research team headed hv Aneas Salati at the lirazilian Spaee 
Research Institute has conckided that nearly 50 peivent of the 
rain falling over the Amazon Basin is returned to the atmosphere 
from the forest. In this way. the recycling of water from east to 
west across the .Amazon Basin plays an impoitanl part in keeping 
the .Amazon Basin wet. The westerly regions are thousands of 
kilometres from the .Atlantic Ocean, and rely on water "passed 
on" through the forest-atmosphere .system. If large areas of forest 
in the east are destroyed, this recycjing "conveyor" could hreak 
down, and lead to a gradual drying out and ultimate death of the 
forests in the far west of the Basin. 



The naked edge iahnir] Kroni the air. the cHccts ordeforestation in 

the .\m:izt)n Basin are only too evident. K.xjjosed to the elements, the 

irreplaceable .-ioil is washed away by the heavy tropical rains. Soon. 

deep gulleys form which increase further the ei'osive effect of the 

Pressures on the rain forests 

ain forests offer a wide array of lesouices in areas of the 
world that are frequently beset by poverty and rapidly 
/expanding populations. Demographers predict that by the 
end of the next century four out of every five people in the world 
will be living in a tropical forest country. Despite an already wide 
^ spectrum of wealth in these countries, all are striving for a better 
standardof living. Some of them Malaysia. Brazil and Indonesia 
^ — - are now at various stages of industrialization, whereas others, 
notably in tropical Africa, are still struggling to find the path to 
■ development. During the next centmy there will be increasing 
^ • pressure on forests caused by the needs of the people in these 
countries. Like us. they will need homes, roads, food, educational 
and recreational facilities, electricity and industrial consumer 
goods. In many ways, the natural resources of the forests are the 
raw materials for this development. 

One of the most pressing needs will be for agricultural land, but 
the resources in the forests go much deeper than this: rivers can 
be dammed for electricity generation, minerals under the forest 
can be exploited for industry, and the forested areas themselves 
can yield many different forest products and timber (sec pages 
30-31). as well as being a genetic storehouse (see pages 32-33). 

Much of the land clearance during recent decades has been 
haphazard, taking place spontaneously without any form of 
control or planning. Landless settlers have hacked down and 
burned countless thousands of square kilometres of either 
undisturbed or logged foi'est. They gain access to the land by 
using roads built by governments, or by logging or mining 
companies, into previously inaccessible forest. The result has 
frequently been severe environmental degradation. All too often, 
the type of shifting cultivation that they use is unsustainable. 


The ecosystem is destroyed for ever, and the cleared land has to be 
abandoned after a few years. The settlers can only move on to 
repeat the process elsewhere. 

With the ever-increasing population pressure in tropical forest 
countries, it is inevitable that this type of deforestation will 
continue. But these people are no more the root cause of the 
destruction than soldiers are of wars. Poverty, population growth 
and unequal land ownership are the fundamental causes of this 
ad hoc land-conversion and destruction. It is this sort of w^astage 
that cannot be allowed to continue. The tropical forest resource 
is still very large - particularly in South America and parts of 
Central Africa. But it is not infinite: once trees have been cut 
down, and the soil has been eroded over very large areas, there is 
little chance of the forest ever regenerating satisfactorily. 

But it is not only the poor who are placing demands on the rain 
forests. It is the rich industrialized countries that provide the 
demand that drives the tropical timber trade and the markets for 
the beef cattle that graze on pastures that were once rain forest. 
There is also the web of international debt that has grown 
between the industrialized and Third World nations which often 
forces those countries with rain forests to over-exploit them. 

It is clear that we will not be able to maintain all of nature's 
wonders forever in pristine condition; that is the price we pay for 
development. Those areas that are an exceptionally rich biologi- 
cal resource need to be preserved intact as protected national 
parks, and the indigenous peoples should be given the chance to 
continue to manage their land w^ithout intrusions from outside. 
The rest may be sustainably managed in the way best suited to the 
land, whether that involves agriculture, forestry or industry. 


The impact of logging 

Cote d'lvoire, a major West African exporter of timber, is about to 
be completely logged out and expects to begin importing wood in 
the next two or three years. In Southeast Asia, timber production 
from the Philippines has declined through over-exploitation, a 
pattern now being repeated in parts of Malaysia. So far, the 
Amazon Basin has remained comparatively untouched. 

Commercial logging is often seen as the major cause of 
deforestation in rain forests, but in fact it is almost never directly 
responsible for forest loss. Indirectly, however, it has more 
malign effects: migrant settlers frequently move into the forest 
along the loggers' roads and complete the deforestation illegally. 

For tropical nations, timber is an important source of foreign 
currency. Today, the annual world trade in tropical timber 
exceeds US$8 billion in value. That comprises about 25 million 
cubic metres (880 million cubic feet) of raw logs, eight million 
cubic metres (280 million cubic feet) of sawn hardwood, and seven 
million cubic metres (250 million cubic feet) of plywood and 
veneers. Japan is currently the world's prime consumer, account- 
ing for about 35 percent of the total tropical timber market, the 
rest of the Far East accounting for about 25 percent and Europe a 
further 13 percent. In the past, almost all of Japan's tropical 
timber has come from Southeast Asia, but now that production 
from the region is begining to wane, Japan is looking to Africa 
and Brazil as a future source of wood. 

Commercial logging tends to be based on a selective system, so 
that only a small percentage of the trees is cut and removed from 
the forest. Of the thousands of species of tropical trees, only a 
relatively small number - including mahogany (Swietenia macro- 
phylla) from Brazil, teak (Tectona grandis) from Southeast Asia, 
and okoume (Aucoumea klaineana) from Central Africa - fetch a 
good price in the conservative international market. In spite of 
attempts to market a wider range of woods, probably only 50 
species are widely exploited. Even if selective logging techniques 
are employed, damage to the forest can still be substantial 
because many of the nearby trees are brought down with the ones 

felled. Heavy machinery causes further damage to trees and 
compaction of the soil. But the amount of damage to the forest 
depends on how carefully the logging is done. 

Who is to blame? 

Recently, attitudes towards the logging industry have become 
polarized. The view taken by some Western non-government 
organizations, such as Friends of the Earth and the World 
Rainforest Movement, is that loggers are responsible for mass 
forest destruction, both directly through their logging, and 
indirectly by creating access for landless peasants. 

Other groups such as the lUCN and the World Wide Fund for 
Nature (wwF) regard the timber trade itself as holding the key to 
saving the forests, despite its poor track record in the past. The 
point is that if the forests die, so does the lucrative tropical timber 
trade, which is not in the interest of the logging companies. 

In the past, many commercial loggers have gone in and "mined" 
their concessions, taking out whatever they have wanted with 
little thought to the future. This is partly because logging conces- 
sions have been so short - only five or ten years in some countries. 
Tropical hardwoods grow slowly, so there is little incentive to 
bother with a long-term, sustainable system. If, on the other hand, 
these companies are given longer concessions (60 years is seen as 
the minimum) it will be in their interests to protect the forest. 
Using a trunk girth measurement, whereby only mature trees are 
cut, it should be possible to ensure sustainable production, with 
the harvesting of mature trees on 30- to 70-year rotations. 

Critics of this idea point out that there is a negligible amount of 
truly sustainable forestry currently in operation. Although that 
may be true, it does not imply that sustainable management of 
tropical forests is not possible. Indeed, we should all hope that it 
is possible, because the only alternative if the tropical timber 
trade is to continue is to clear-fell forests and set up tree 
plantations. Ecologically, this is the worst possible scenario, 
because it reduces biological diversity to near zero. 



Moving the timber (left) Out 
of the water, the trunks are 
cumbersome and extremely 
difficult to manoeuvre other than 
with powerful machines and 
tractors. Nonetheless, it is only 
out of the water that some types 
of wood can be properly assessed 
for processing. 

Another tree falls (above) - 
Even though much of the work of 
removing cut trees from the rain 
forests to the timber mills is 
carried out with the use of large 
machines, the job of felling 
individual trees is usually done 
by men with chainsaws. The 
litter left behind in a logged 
forest can increase the risk of fire 
as was the case in Borneo in 1983 
(see p. 168). 

Floating timber-yard (left) - 
Logs floated down to this timber- 
yard on Mindanao island in the 
Philippines are sorted out on the 
water before undergoing 
industrial processing in the plant 
behind. The pungent smell of 
waterlogged wood is redolent for 
kilometres around. 


Shifting and shifted cultivators 

Slash-and-burn: an emotive phrase that more often than not 
brings to mind pictures of destruction, of vast areas of smoulder- 
ing tree stumps put to the torch as peasant farmers clear the 
forest for cultivation. But this technique has been used by 
generations of indigenous rain forest peoples throughout the 
tropics as part of a life-giving, sustainable forest agriculture 
system. Known as "shifting" or "swidden" agriculture (see page 
95), this is often the only way in which the nutrient-poor rain 
forest soils can support crops. 

Today, the problem is that as population pressure increases, 
the natural limitations of the shifting system are not respected. 
As the land is used more and more intensively, the fallow period 
becomes shortened, which leads to the over-working of the soil, 
decreasing soil fertility and reducing crop yields. In addition, the 
migrant settlers, who are not familiar with the forest, do not 
generally plant the wide variety of crops used by traditional 
shifting cultivators, which removes what is essentially a natural 
pest-control system. Planting monocultures makes the crop much 
more susceptible to pest infestations. Furthermore, the cleared 
plots are frequently much larger than those of the indigenous 
people, which means that forest regeneration during the fallow 
period takes significantly longer. 

Without adequate protection from the elements, the soil is 
quickly degraded by the intense heat of the sun; the nutrients 
from the initial burning are soon washed away by heavy tropical 
storms, and the plots become infested with weeds and pests. After 
a few years, many settlers find that they are unable to support 
themselves: they then abandon their plots, or sell up to cattle 
ranchers (see pages 42-43) and move on down the road, 

A combination of increasing population pressure and ignor- 
ance of suitable farming techniques has led to severe land 
degradation throughout the tropics. Vast areas of scrub and 
unproductive grassland - 30,000^0,000 square kilometres 
(11,500-15,500 square miles) in Papua New Guinea alone - bear 
witness to the unsuccessful attempts. In Laos, current estimates 
suggest that between 2,000 and 3,000 square kilometres (800 and 
1,100 square miles) of forest are lost each year to the army of 
shifting cultivators. If present rates continue unchecked, all 
Laotian rain forest will have disappeared by the year 2030. 

It is widely recognized that this sort of uncontrolled and 
unsustainable shifting agriculture represents the biggest threat 
to the future of the rain forests. In many countries landless 
peasants in areas of high population density are encouraged to 
move into less developed forest areas by governments. These 
people are thus essentially "shifted" cultivators. 

Projects such as Sri Lanka's Mahaweli Regional Development 
Programme, Brazil's Transamazonia Highway Project, and Indo- 
nesia's transmigration programme (see box) have all been 
government-backed attempts to relocate people in response to 
population pressures. Their success has been extremely limited. 

Rondonia, a Brazilian state the size of the United Kingdom that 
lies on the border with Bolivia, is one example of an area that has 
been badly affected by government colonization policy under the 
slogan "Land without people for people without land". In 1960, 
Rondonia had an indigenous population of about 10,000, who 
were traditional shifting cultivators. Following the paving of the 
BR364 road, the population mushroomed to more than 1.5 million 
by 1985: and between 1983 and 1985, 11 percent of the state's forest 
was felled. If the destruction continues, Rondonia will be almost 
completely deforested before the end of the century. In the 
neighbouring state of Acre, chainsaws have been handed out free 
as a vote-gaining exercise. 

However, the majority of shifted cultivators are not part of 
government-backed projects, but move into forested areas spon- 
taneously along roads built by governments, or by commercial 
logging or mining companies. These people frequently operate 
illegally, and are beyond the control of the government. But with 
few forest-protection controls, the destruction continues. 

Existing roads {main pic) give shifting cultivators access to the rain forest {inset). 



Transmigrant colony at Sorong, Irian Jaya. 

Migration on a massive scale 

The Indonesian Transmigration Programme is the world's 
largest programme for voluntary, government-sponsored 
migration. Since 1905 at least 2.5 million people have been 
moved from the crowded islands of Java, Madura and Bali 
to new settlements on the less densely populated areas in 
Sumatra, Kalimantan, Maluku and Irian Jaya (see page 
168). It is estimated that perhaps as many as five million 
more people have moved without government assistance, 
but as a direct or indirect result of the programme. 

The biggest drive to move people came at the beginning 
of the 1980s when more than 60,000 families were being 
moved each year at an estimated cost of US$10,000 per 
family. By 1987, the pace of transmigration slowed to 
around 10,000 families a year, as the programme ran out of 
money and as the Indonesian government became more 
sensitive to the problems transmigrants were experien- 
cing when they were often settled on land that couldn't 
support them. Although transmigration has undoubtedly 
improved the lot of some families, many others have moved 
thousands of miles, yet ended up in city slums that have 
grown up in the outlying regions - notably in Irian Jaya. 
The Indonesian government has acknowledged mistakes, 
and hopes to continue the programme on a smaller scale, 
with more careful planning. 

As a means of relieving population pressure on Java, the 
programme has been ineffective. Despite family planning 
measures, the population growth on that island still 
exceeds the number of transmigrants moving away. Other 
critics of the programme claim that it is nothing more than 
a means of "Javanising" the entire archipelago - some- 
thing which has not been well received by the local 
Irianese in Irian Jaya. 

Transmigration settlements have officially been viewed 
as centres of growth and development, but the more 
succesful sites have had to cope with a large influx of 
unassisted migrants who have been lured by the good 
reports of friends and families who were government- 
sponsored. The environmental consequences of the activi- 
ties of these extra people have often been dire. In 
Lampung, Sumatra's southernmost province (the closest 
to Java), these migrants have degraded hillsides and 
forested land to such an extent that they have had to be 
relocated in neighbouring Bengkulu province. The integ- 
rity of the Barisan Selatan National Park between 
Lampung and Bengkulu is now being threatened by 
continued illegal forest clearance, and lax policing. 


Cattle ranching 

During the last 30 years the spread of beef cattle ranching has 
posed a serious threat to the rain forests in Latin America. The 
clear-felling of huge areas of forest has been given special tax 
advantages by governments in Central America and Brazil, and 
aid grants from the World Bank, to produce beef for domestic 
consumption and export to the North American and West 
European fast food markets. The combined herds of Nicaragua, 
Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica doubled to 9.5 million head 
of cattle between 1960 and 1980; during the same period a quarter 
of the forest in these countries was cleared, and the process is 
continuing even faster today. 

Cattle ranching generally represents the third and final phase 
of forest degradation, logging and attempts at shifting cultiva- 
tion by landless settlers. But even ranching is not usually 
sustainable for more than a decade, so the cattle men move on to 
new pastures as productivity falls. 

The very low initial stocking rate of just one animal per hectare 
(2.5 acres) immediately after clearance is soon reduced as soil 
fertility declines. Five to ten years after clearance, each animal 
needs more than five hectares (12.5 acres). With such low 
stocking rates it is not surprising that meat productivity is not 
even one-tenth of that achieved by European farms. Some of the 
richer cattle men dose their pastures with fertilizers, but the end 
result is the same: the fertility of the soil declines and the pastures 
are invaded by weeds; under the trampling of hooves, the soil is 
compacted, exposed to the elements and then eroded away - in 
Costa Rica, it is estimated that for each kilogramme (2.2 pounds) 
of beef exported, 2.5 tonnes (2.2 US tons) of soil is lost. 

A similar story of destruction has been unfolding in parts of 
Brazil's Amazonian forests. Although it represents the third 
stage of forest degradation, cattle ranching has often been the 
engine which drives the cycle. Many landless peasants deliber- 
ately clear forest with the intention of using it themselves for a 
couple of years and then selling it at a previously agreed price to a 
rancher. Sometimes the ranchers organize clearance of the 
forest, selling the best wood, but allowing peasant farmers to use 
the land for two years if they first clear the trees. 

Many ranch owners are simply land speculators who are 
anticipating rising land prices following the opening up of 
Amazonia. Tax incentives and ranching subsidies ease the initial 
costs, while the sustainability of ranching is of little consequence 
because the real interest is in the value of the land. Legally, cattle 
ranching is viewed as "land improvement", and as such gives the 
rancher title to the land. Rich and powerful land speculators have 
been known to use fraud and violence to eliminate claims from 
smaller competitors such as peasant farmers, rubber tappers (see 
page 124) and indigenous peoples. 

At last, the tax incentives that encouraged the ranching have 
been withdrawn. This should substantially slow the spread of 
ranching, in that without the incentives it is inherently unecono- 
mic. Seeded pastures in many parts of the Amazon Basin lose 
fertility after just five years of ranching because the amount of 
phosphorus in the soil, which is an important nutrient for healthy 
pasture, quickly declines as soils are eroded. 

At the state-run Brazilian Agriculture Research Agency in 
Belem, agronomists have been experimenting with new varieties 
of grass in the hope of transforming cattle ranches into profitable 
enterprises. Thus far they have had little success. However, 
Colombia's agricultural research institutions, together with the 
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, Nigeria, have 
been experimenting with a combination of grasses and legumes. 
Once legumes have established themselves in a field, they begin 
to provide the nitrates which grasses require to flourish. Nitrates 
and organic matter from dead and decaying plants and animal 
droppings stimulate microbial activity in the soil. In this way a 
once-barren soil can be rehabilitated. This, perhaps, could mean 
that previously-exhausted lands could be reinstated as pasture 
land, thus ensuring that further forest is not encroached upon. 

Cattle ranching in Amazonia leads all too soon to soil erosion. 



Industry in the forest 

To many tropical nations, their forests are not just a source of 
timber and land: they may conceal considerable mineral wealth 
beneath the trees, and the potential for damming rivers as a 
source of renewable hydroelectric power is often enormous. As a 
direct threat to rain forests, mining is a relatively minor cause of 
deforestation, although access roads, and the generally increased 
level of development in the region of mines, frequently attract 
landless settlers. The Amazon Basin certainly contains enormous 
mineral and oil wealth, as do parts of New Guinea, the 
Philippines and Indonesia. 

Probably the largest and most ambitious mining project being 
developed in a rain forest is the Brazilian Grande Carajas 
Programme. Costing an estimated US$70 billion, it will cover an 
area in eastern Amazonia the size of France. At the core of the 
programme are the enormous deposits of iron ore which lie under 
the forest. At least 18 pig-iron smelting plants are being set up; the 
first, at Maraba in the state of Para, started production in March 
1988. These smelters will be fuelled with charcoal produced from 
virgin rain forest. When all 18 smelters are on stream, the 
charcoal they burn will consume a staggering 2,300 square 
kilometres (900 square miles) of virgin forest each year. Other 
commercial mining operations in Amazonia take a more respon- 
sible attitude. The land used for the Mineragao Rio Norte mine is 
reafforested after the ore has been removed (see page 121). 

Other industrial pressures on the world's rain forests come 
from illegal gold mining by masses of landless peasants-turned- 
gold-prospectors. Gold rushes in the southern Philippine island 
of Mindanao, and in various parts of Amazonia have resulted in 
the pollution of rivers with mercury (used in the separation of 
gold from the ore), and disruption to tribal peoples. 

Flooding the forest 

One feature of rain forests, as their name suggests, is that they 
have an extremely high annual rainfall, which feeds some of the 
world's great rivers including the Amazon, the Zaire (formerly 
the Congo), and the Orinoco. But harnessing this energy means 
building dams and flooding large areas of forest. Although many 
tropical rain forest habitats are adapted to seasonal flooding (see 
pages 16-19), the creation of a reservoir is usually a large-scale, 
extreme and permanent change. 

The Amazon outstrips all its rivals in its hydroelectric 
capacity. It carries one-fifth of the Earth's entire fresh water 
supply through its channels every day. A conservative estimate 
puts the electricity that could be generated from the Amazon's 
thousand-odd tributaries at 100,000 megawatts. The Tucurui dam 
was Brazil's first large hydroelectric project in Amazonia, 
flooding about 1,750 square kilometres (650 square miles) of rain 
forest. Under the Brazilian government's Piano 2010, some 136 
new hydroelectric dams are planned. However, following the 
protest at Altamira by the Kayapo Indians (see page 112), the 
World Bank withdrew all its funding for Amazonian dams. 

Apart from the sheer loss of forest, dams often cause major 
ecological problems. Silting is a major concern with many and 
may be exacerbated by deforestation of the watershed. For 
example, the Ambuklao dam in the Philippines has had its 
expected life reduced from 60 to only 32 years because silt is filling 
up the reservoir. In addition, when nutrients accumulate in a 
reservoir, they promote rapid growth of algae which upsets the 
ecological balance, and can result in the death offish. The static 
waters of reservoirs additionally provide excellent breeding 
grounds for snails, mosquitos and other insects. Increased 
incidence of malaria and schistosomiasis is associated with dams. 
The Tucurui dam is a case in point. The ecology of the river below 
the dam has been severely disrupted; fish and invertebrate species 
that were adapted to seasonal flooding of the Rio Tocantins are 
no longer able to breed; farmers are also affected, because their 
smallholdings were reliant on seasonal inputs of the fertile river 
silts. The impact on migrating river species such as the pink river 
dolphin {Inia geoffrensis) can only be guessed at. 

Mineral wealth (above) - From 
the air it is possible to gain an 
impression of the extent of the 
Grande Carajas mine in Para 
state, Brazil. Not only is it the 
site of the world's largest 
deposits of high-quality iron ore, 
but there are also large deposits 
near by of copper, gold, bauxite 
and manganese. Mining began in 

the mid-1970s and now the 
mining region is linked by a 
railway to the deep-sea port of 
Sao Luis on the Atlantic coast. 



Scuba lumberjacks 

When the Tucurui dam was built, lack of developers' 
forethought meant that the trees in the valley, a valuable 
resource in themselves (estimated at 2.5 million cubic 
metres (90 million cubic feet) of prime timber), were not 
cleared before the reservoir was filled. Consequently, 
many of the flooded trees stand above the surface of the 20- 
metre (65-foot) deep reservoir, representing a hazard to 
shipping and fishing. 

However, a new and unorthodox profession is now 
attracting the attention of local peasants and gold 
prospectors: underwater lumber] acking. Juarez Gomez, 
an ex-gold prospector, has recently invented an under- 
water pneumatic chainsaw, capable of working at depths 
of up to 50 metres (150 feet). 

The costs of obtaining the wood are said to be only a 
quarter of those involved in normal logging, largely 
because it is relatively simple to bring the cut wood to the 
surface. High-quality wood such as mahogany can be 
removed for as little as US$5.50 per cubic metre (35 cubic 
feet) of wood. On the international market such wood may 
fetch up to US$900 per cubic metre. 

Gold rush (above left) - During 
the early 1980s up to 50,000 
mining workers and their 
overseers toiled daily at the 
Serra Pelada mine in Brazil. By 
1986 more than 33,000 tonnes 
(29,000 US tons) of gold had been 
extracted . . . and what had once 
been a rolling hill had become a 
deep, flooded hole. Today, gold 
mining continues in hundreds of 
small-scale operations 
throughout the gold-rich areas of 
the Amazon Basin. There are also 
mechanized mining boats that 
search for gold in the Amazonian 

Creating charcoal (above) - To 
extract iron from the ore in 
which it is mined requires 
extremely high temperatures. 
The most convenient way to 
produce such temperatures is to 
burn charcoal, itself produced 
from the wood of the rain forest. 
This is carried out in small, mud 

brick kilns by the carvoeiros 
(which literally means "carbon 
people"). The necessary skills 
are usually passed down within 
a family. 


How rain forests work 

he splendours of the tropical rain forests invariably make a 
profound impression on naturalists who visit them. Mar- 
- garet Mee, the celebrated botanical artist, described a trip 
along the Rio Negro in 1967: "Jara palms grew in humid places 
along the banks, sometimes almost covered by the high water, 
their fibrous stems making wonderful homes for dozens of 
epiphytes. ... As the sun touched the forest its last rays caught 
the red and blue plumes of macaws crossing the river in pairs or 
occasional threes, while oddly-beaked toucans, herons, noisy 
kingfishers and flights of parrots all on their homeward way kept 
my attention fixed. . . ." 

More than a century earlier, another visitor to Brazil was 
equally impressed. "Here I first saw a tropical forest in all its 
sublime grandeur", wrote Charles Darwin in 1832. during the 
T voyage of HMS Beagle, " - nothing but the reality can give any 
idea how wonderful, how magnificent the scene is. . . ." Darwin 
and his two eminent contemporaries, Alfred Russel Wallace and 
Henry Bates, were among the first European naturalists to 
explore the tropical rain forests, and the observations they made 
i^ there helped to substantiate the theory of evolution that Darwin 
and Wallace both hit upon independently. 

It is significant that the rain forests played such a role in 
shaping modern biology. Here is "the struggle for survival" at its 
most dramatic, evolution at its most profligate, adaptation at its 
most complex and intricate. The rain forest shows us life speeded 
up. intensified, portrayed in giant forms and vibrant colours. 
Even in the dense heart of the forest, where the gloomy shade cast 
by the canopy excludes most other plant life, there is still the 
endless bustling of termites and ants, audibly decomposing the 
forest, and the relentless upward push of the trees. 

Darwin described how, following a rainstorm, an "extra- 
ordinary evaporation" took place. "At the height of a hundred 
feet the hills were buried in a dense white vapour, which rose like 
columns of smoke from the most thickly-wooded parts. . . ." Only 
recently have scientists begun to understand the significance of 
what he observed: three-quarters of the rain falling on to the 
forest is returned to the atmosphere by evaporation and transpi- 
ration (see pages 34-35). The water that rises as vapour even- 
I tually falls as rain again, but in the meantime it broods over the 
"' forest in the form of humid air and rain clouds, which moderate 
(^ the heat of the sun and reflect some of its potentially damaging 
heat. The rain forest may create the moist air and clouds, but it is 

from the full glare of the tropical sun. Science has revealed this 
fragile interdependence between climate and vegetation at the 
very moment that humankind seems intent on reducing the rain 
forests to shreds. The greatest fear of conservationists is that the 
rain forests can not survive once a certain proportion of the trees 
are destroyed, because the protective cloud cover would be lost. 

Dissecting the forest into scattered fragments has other 
dangers too. Biologists think of these fragments as islands, 
surrounded by a "sea" of pasture or plantations. The analogy has 
proved useful in predicting what happens to such islands after 
they become cut off from other forests. Islands are invariably 
poor in species compared with the "mainland", although the 
exact reason for this is still debated. Studies of fragmented 
habitats around the world, and. more recently, in the Amazon 
Basin (see page 120). have confirmed that the "island effect" will 
occur. With each passing year, more species will die out. until 
each forest fragment reaches its true, and rather meagre, 
carrying capacity. 

With the rain forest we would lose something infinitely 
precious. The effect on world climate is unpredictable, and 
possibly catastrophic. The effect on the biological richness of this 
planet would be devastating. The more we understand about how 
the rain forests work, the more we realize that they must be saved. 
Flowering trees in the .Amazonian rain I' 

Face signals The bald uakari 
(Cacajao callus) has a hairless 
face, whose flushed appearance 
may play a part in signalling to 
others of its species. There are 
two types, one with white fur, the 
other golden brown. Both are 
confined to the flooded forests of 



Body artists The Kayapo are 
shifting cultivators renowned for 
their tradition of body painting. 
Like most other native 
^ Amazonians, their existence is 
now threatened by gold mining 
and the destruction of the 
rain forest. 

Dependent on water Tree 
frogs are among the most 
distinctive forms of rain forest 
life. The air within the forest is 
heavy with moisture, allowing 
these thin-skinned animals to 
survive in the tree tops. 

Evolution of the forests 

The tropical rain forests have been evolving for almost 200 
million years, beginning during the age of the dinosaurs, when a 
period of great drought finally came to an end and the planet 
enjoyed a warm, moist climate again. Forests grew up and 
covered most of the land, which was then still part of a single 
landmass or "supercontinent" known as Pangea. 

Those ancient forests were very different from their modern 
counterparts because flowering plants - the group to which most 
present-day rain forest trees and plants belong - had yet to 
evolve. Instead there were gigantic conifers forming the canopy, 
with tree ferns, the palm-like cycads and the Ginkgo (relatives of 
the living maidenhair trees) making up the lower storeys. 

Over the next 100 million years the flowering plants evolved 
from the ferns, and developed their curious relationship with 
pollinating insects (see page 72). Flowers were their most 
conspicuous development, but they were also much more adapt- 
able plants, and this fitted them for life as opportunists in the 
forests, springing up in clearings where a mighty conifer had 
been thrown down by a storm. From these humble beginnings as 
pioneer species, the flowering plants developed larger and more 
robust forms that eventually took over the canopy as well. 

The earlier plants have left behind some small reminders of 
their golden age, such as the ferns growing on the branches of 
trees as epiphytes. Larger survivors are few but they include the 
tree ferns, found in most tropical rain forests, and Araucaria 
conifers (relatives of the monkey puzzle tree of suburban gardens) 
which still flourish in the rain forests of New Guinea. Another 
curious survivor is the Gnetum vine, related to the conifers, and 
the only living member of this group to grow as a climber. 

Continental drift 

While the flowering plants were evolving, Pangea was slowly 
breaking up, and the continents moving apart to their present 
positions. The sea rose at times and inundated forest areas, 
eventually falling again and allowing the forest to regrow. 
Sometimes the sea cut one continent off from another, and both 
South America and Africa were islands for millions of years at a 
stretch. These events were of great significance in the evolution 
of the forest, and they help to explain the huge differences in flora 
and fauna between the rain forests of diiferent continents. 

It was while Pangea was disintegrating that the birds evolved 
(beginning about 150 million years ago) and the dinosaurs died 
out (65 million years ago) leaving the way clear for mammals to 
diversify and increase their size. Because these important 
developments occurred after the continents had separated, 
evolution took its own idiosyncratic course in each of them. The 
most striking differences are seen among the mammals, and this 
is well illustrated by the primates. The monkeys of the New and 
Old Worlds developed independently from a common but distant 
ancestor, and, while superficially similar (because they have 
adapted to similar ways of life), they show fundamental differ- 
ences in anatomy. Apes developed from the Old World monkeys 
and are unknown in Central and South American rain forests, but 
large monkeys such as the howler monkeys have evolved to fill a 
similar niche. Madagascar, isolated from Africa before the 
monkeys and apes evolved, preserves an earlier phase of primate 
evolution in the form of the smaller-brained lemurs. Although 
eminently suitable for them, the rain forests of Australia and New 
Guinea have no monkeys or apes at all, their place being taken by 
marsupials such as tree kangaroos. The marsupials, although 
highly evolved, are descended from a very early stage of 
mammalian evolution. They only survived in the southern 
continent Gondwanaland (later to become Australia, Africa, 
South America and Antarctica) because placental mammals, 
which evolved later in the northern part of Pangea, were unable 
to reach Gondwanaland after it broke away. 

In both Asia and the Americas, continental drift has enriched 
the flora and fauna of the rain forest, by mingling the species of 
two distinct regions. Australia and its associated islands finally 

250 million years ago 

The birth of the forests The 

continents rest on sections of the 
earth's crust which are in 
constant motion relative to each 
other, carrying the continents 
about with them. Around 250 
million years ago, all the 
continents had been pushed 
together to form a single 
landmass, known as Pangea. This 
"supercontinent" was the 
birthplace of the present-day 
tropical rain forests. Before this, 
vast swampy forests covered 

100 million years ago 

much of the land, but these had 
dwindled and disappeared during 
a long period of drought. It was 
the end of this drought that 
signalled the birth of new forests. 
Most of the trees in the forests 
were conifers, cycads or tree 
ferns. The flowering plants, 
which are now dominant, did not 
appear until about 100 million 
years ago. With flowering plants 
came the great evolutionary 
expansion* of the insects. Birds 
had already appeared by this 



Ancient forms (above) - Ferns, 
such as these giant ferns 
{Alsophila armata) in the 
Atlantic coast forest of Brazil, 
used to be far more common in 
the rain forest. This was before 
flowering plants diversified and 
became the dominant plant type. 
These ferns are comparatively 
intolerant of shade and prefer a 
wet environment. 

I Continental shelf 

Positions of the present-day land masses are depicted by a black line on each map 

time, but were still relative 
newcomers, while mammals had 
yet to appear. As this was 
happening, Pangea was breaking 
up, carrying sections of rain 
forest away to continue evolving 
in varying degrees of isolation. 
Throughout this time, despite 

climatic variations, there was 
always some forest cover in at 
least part of the tropics. This 
continuum is an important factor 
in the evolution of the rain 
forests and the complexity of 
relationships found in the 
forests today. 

Tree ferns (above) - The 
Malaysian tree fern {Cyathea 
contaminans) can reach a height 
of 15 m (50 ft), and is one of about 
700 living tree fern species, many 
of which have a very limited 


separated from Gondwanaland and drifted northwards, to collide 
with the continental mass of Southeast Asia about 15 million 
years ago. Successful species from each continent migrated into 
the new lands now available to them. Eucalypts. cockatoos and 
marsupial phalangers spread northwestwards from Australasia, 
while rattans, woodpeckers, mice and many other species spread 
southeastwards from Asia. 

Falling sea levels finally reunited South America with North 
America less than five million years ago, allowing an exchange of 
animals between these continents. Among the existing fauna of 
Amazonia are relicts of the continent's island past, such as the 
anteater, armadillo, sloth, agouti and capybara, mingled with 
newcomers from the north, such as the peccary, squirrel, jaguar 
and tapir. 

The Ice Ages 

Throughout these epochs, the climate fluctuated many times, 
becoming hotter or cooler, wetter or drier. But the most dramatic 
changes came quite recently, with the series of Ice Ages that 
occurred between 2.5 million and 10,000 years ago. Each time the 
ice caps crept towards the equator, the tropical regions would 
have become both cooler and drier, so that some areas of rain 
forest became seasonal forest or savanna. No one knows how 
large an area would have been affected, but it is believed that the 
rain forests of America and Africa were more depleted than those 
of Southeast Asia. 

The effects of the ice ages on the tropical rain forests is 
currently a matter of debate. During the past 20 years, the idea 
that the Amazonian rain forest was reduced to a number of small 
islands or "refugia" has gained widespread support among 
scientists. These supposed refugia, which correspond to areas 
containing an unusually large number of species today, were said 
to have acted as "Noah's arks" during the Ice Ages. It has also 
been argued that the splintering of the forest into isolated refugia 
encouraged the evolution of a great many new species - although 
the opposite argument, that the Ice Ages reduced species 
diversity by causing extinctions, has sometimes been put for- 
ward, and is equally plausible. Recently, many people have begun 
to question the evidence for refugia. As different animal groups 
have different refugia, it is suggested that such areas owe the 
predominance of their life forms to some other underlying cause, 
such as a favourable local climate or soil. 

The rain forests today 

Even outside such centres of diversity, modern rain forests are 
remarkably rich in species. A hectare (2.5 acres) of Malaysian 
rain forest can contain as many as 180 different species of tree, 
whereas a temperate wood would be unlikely to have more than 
ten. A handful of these 180 species would be reasonably common, 
the rest being extremely rare, perhaps only one or two individuals 
per hectare. The same richness and variety is seen among smaller 
plants and plant-eating animals, especially insects, but there is 
far less diversity among the predators. These generalizations 
hold good for all continents, but South American forests are the 
richest in species, and those in Africa notably poorer than the 
South American or Southeast Asian rain forests. Within each 
continent, some types of forest are more uniform than others, 
notably mangrove swamps, which never boast more than 25 
different species of tree. 

Why tropical rain forests should be so rich in species is a more 
difficult question than it appears. It seems certain that there is a 
variety of factors at work, and the mix of reasons may be different 
for different forests. 

One common factor is the high input of energy from the sun (see 
page 61), creating bountiful conditions for growth, combmed 
with a shortage of soil nutrients. The nutrients tend to be 
distributed patchily, and this encourages different species to 
evolve, capable of dealing with the infertile conditions in varied 
ways, or exploiting different patches of soil. 

Chemical warfare - The colour 
of these lycaenid caterpillars 
(Eumaes mynas) advertises the 
fact that they are highly toxic, 
but the poisons that they contain 
are not their own. To deter leaf 
eaters, the plant species on which 
they feed is poisonous; but the 
caterpillars are able to 

incorporate this poison into their 
bodies without any harmful 
effects. The plant's defences are 
not as weak as they may at first 
appear, in that it has only one 
other insect predator. Such 
relationships are typical of the 
rain forest where there is intense 

In place of monkeys - The rain 
forests of New Guinea and 
Australia contain no monkeys or 
apes. Instead there are marsupial 
tree kangaroos, such as this 
Matschie's tree kangaroo 
(Dendrolagus matschiei) in the 
rain forest of Papua New Guinea. 

These kangaroos are not 
particularly well adapted to an 
arboreal lifestyle. Instead of 
making their escape through the 
trees when threatened, they tend 
to jump to the ground and then 
hop away. 



Regenerating rain forest: Nature's own experiment 

When the volcanic island of Krakatau erupted in 1883 it 
left behind four small islands, the fragments of its former 
self, devoid of life and covered by a layer of ash up to 100 
metres (330 feet) deep. Naturalists then working in 
Indonesia realized the value of this "natural experiment" 
in revealing how a tropical rain forest would develop, 
starting from scratch. Regular surveys of the islands were 
made over the next 50 years, and the study programme was 
resumed more recently, in 1979. 

The volcanic ash of Krakatau was first colonized by a 
slimy film of cyanobacteria, then by grasses and ferns. 
Small bushes followed, and within ten years of the 
eruption some tree saplings had become established. It 
took only 40 years for the islands to regrow a mantle of 
trees, but this was just a semblance of the true tropical 
rain forest. Closer inspection showed it to have only 36 
species of tree, and even by 1979, when the rain forest stood 
30 metres (100 feet) tall in places, there were only 60 
species of tree in the inland areas. Almost all of these were 
trees typical of "secondary forest" - the pioneer species 
that spring up in light gaps (see page 66). A few of the trees 
that characterize mature rain forest had arrived but were 
extremely rare. This lack of plant diversity was reflected 
in the animal life, with only five species of butterfly in the 
interior forests. 

Krakatau is only 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the coasts 
of Java and Sumatra, and relatively easily colonized. Of 
the plant species established by 1934, 41 percent were 
Unset) Having been smothered in ash from Krakatau, the island of Rakata 
is once again covered in vegetation. 

wind-dispersed and 28 percent animal-dispersed, the rest 
being carried by water. Islands farther from the mainland 
must rely solely on animal-dispersed seeds. Jarak, 64 
kilometres (40 miles) from the coast of Malaysia, was 
smothered in volcanic ash about 34,000 years ago. A 
survey found only 93 species of flowering plant, a paltry 
total, of which only two were brought there by the wind. 
Sao Tome, a volcanic island in the Gulf of Guinea, 300 
kilometres (188 miles) from Africa, is almost entirely 
populated by animal- and water-dispersed plants. On all 
these islands, figs are conspicuously successful, a testi- 
mony to their prolific fruiting and lavish seed production. 
A recent study on Krakatau underlines the importance 
of animal dispersers. This study found that once an island 
has a certain number of fruiting trees, it begins to attract 
seed dispersers such as birds and bats in far greater 
numbers. These bring in fresh seed from the mainland and 
enrich the species diversity of the island, leading to a 
greater year-round supply of fruit. This self-perpetuating 
cycle of fruit and fruit eaters should eventually lead to a 
far richer rain forest. But the process is painfully slow, 
because gaps in the canopy open so rarely, and the stock of 
seeds in the soil is so poor compared with established 
forest. The chances of a canopy-tree seed being in the right 
place at the right moment are, as yet, extremely small. 
Biologists working on Krakatau believe that it will take 
several hundreds, possibly thousands, of years for the 
forest to regain its former glory. 

(Main pic) Regenerated forest can be seen around the shores of Anak 
Krakatau. while the volcano in the centre still smoulders. 


Another factor, stemming from the high solar input, is the great 
height of the forest trees, which creates a massive three- 
dimensional structure (see page 62). Within this framework, a 
great many smaller plants, including climbers and epiphytes, can 
lodge and grow. The variety of these plants creates a tempting 
range of food sources and hiding places for small animals. 

Climate is also a common factor, and this may be crucial. In 
other forests there is a winter or a dry season that interrupts the 
life cycles of insects and usually reduces their numbers. Without 
this "environmental sieve", the rain forest insects find survival 
relatively easy, and they have been free to diversify. 

The unfettered proliferation of insects has undoubtedly 
exerted pressure on trees and other plants, because many insects 
feed on their leaves or seeds. The massive chemical armoury of 
most rain forest plants is a response to the pest problem. Some 
biologists believe that this "pest pressure" has also contributed 
to the diversity of plants in the rain forest. In developing 
chemical defences, a plant species inevitably encourages the 
evolution of insects that can overcome those defences. These 
insects evolve into specialist herbivores for that plant. (The effect 
of highly selective herbivores is well illustrated by the growing of 
plantation trees, such as rubber, in distant parts of the world. 
Initially, such trees do far better than in their native land, thanks 
to the lack of specialized insects that can attack them. But within 
a few years, the insects themselves are inadvertently introduced, 
usually with catastrophic effects.) If a tree or other plant is 

In developing chemical defences, a 

plant species inevitably encourages 

the evolution of insects that can 

overcome those defences. These 

insects evolve into specialist 

herbivores for that plant. 

immune to most insect herbivores but highly susceptible to a few, 
it is most vulnerable when growing near others of its kind. The 
specialized insects can move from one tree to the next with ease, 
resulting in a local population explosion. This has been observed 
where trees grow in single-species clumps in the rain forest - they 
are susceptible to massive pest attacks, usually by leaf-eating 
caterpillars, and can even be killed by them. Attacks of this type 
probably prevent any one species from becoming too common, 
and thus favour diversity. 

A final factor in the diversity of rain forests, as in any forest, is 
the degree of disturbance to the canopy. If there are fairly 
frequent tree-falls, but the damage is not too extensive, then 
pioneer species, smaller trees, climbers and epiphytes will 
flourish (see page 66), greatly increasing the species diversity. By 
comparison, a rain forest that remains unchanged from one 
decade to the next will be poorer in species, as will a forest that 
suffers frequent large-scale degradation. 

It happens that many tropical rain forests are subjected to the 
sort of regular, small-scale disturbance that promotes diversity. 
In the hilly terrain of Southeast Asia, and the montane forests of 
the Andes, landslides are a major factor. In central Amazonia, 
erosion of the land by rivers, which are constantly shifting their 
courses across the Amazon Basin, creates disturbed areas in the 
forest. On forested islands, such as those of the Caribbean and 
Indonesia, cyclones and hurricanes periodically flatten tracts of 
forest, or fell the tallest trees. All these natural cataclysms are 
only temporarily destructive, resulting ultimately in a richer and 
more diverse forest. 



Getting the message across 

(left) - The difficulty of 
communicating in the rain forest 
is reflected in the extremes to 
which certain animals have gone 
to get their message across. The 
mandrill (Papio sphinx) lives on 
the forest floor, where its bright 
face-mask can easily be seen 
through the undergrowth. But 
this colourful sign has its price. 
In older males the pale blue 
tissues on each side of the muzzle 
become so swollen that they 
obstruct the animal's vision. 

Morning chorus (left) - At 
dawn, South American rain 
forests reverberate with the calls 
of the black howler monkey 
(Alouatta caraya). as each group 
re-establishes its territory for the 
day. Compared to the mandrill, 
the coloration of its face is dull, 
reflecting this reliance on audible 

Extremes of size (above) The 
constantly warm climate of the 
rain forest has allowed some 
cold-blooded invertebrates to 
become giants, while life in the 
dense undergrowth has led to the 
evolution of dwarf mammals. The 
royal antelope (Neotragus 
pygmaeus) is the smallest 
antelope in the world, standing 
only 30 cm (12 in) at the shoulder. 
In contrast, the Goliath frog 
(Conrana goliath), which lives in 
deep forest pools, can grow to a 
length of 80 cm (32 in) and weigh 
up to 15 kg (7 lb). On and near 
the forest floor live giant 
millipedes (Doratogonus spp.), 
which feed on dead plant 
material, predatory giant 
centipedes, such as Scolopendra 
subspinipes, and giant snails and 
the flatworm Bipalium kewense. 
The largest butterfly in the world 
is also found in the rain forest. 
The female Queen Alexandra's 
birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera 
alexandrae) has a wingspan of 
28 cm (11 in). 

Male Female 

(actual size) 

Guard bees 




<3 O 

Entrance tunnel 

Honey or pollen store 

"-""^o"" Underground nest 

The aggressive bumble bee 

In temperate regions, most species of bumble bee nest 
underground, using the abandoned burrow of a mouse or 
vole. There is no sign of the nest above ground, and the 
entrance is not guarded - indeed, bumble bees rarely sting 
unless greatly provoked. The behaviour of bumble bees in 
the tropical rain forests is in striking contrast. Most nest 
in trees, and only one species (Bombus transversalis), from 
the Amazon Basin, makes underground nests. The bees of 
this species build a large dome of leaves, twigs and plant 
stems over their nest, something that no other bumble bee 
does. Up to five bees patrol the heap constantly, and make 
frenzied attacks on any animal that approaches. Their 
aggressive behaviour is typical of the rain forest, where 
competition for resources is particularly fierce and pre- 
dation more intense. 


Evolving together 

Close and mutually beneficial relationships between two species 
- often described as mutualism or symbiosis - are known the 
world over. But the tropical rain forests are peculiarly rich in 
such relationships, and they have spawned some of breathtaking 
complexity, such as the bizarre pollination mechanism of the figs 
or the delaying tactics employed by Amorphophallus variabilis 
(see pages 72-73). 

The absence of a winter or dry season may be partly responsible 
for this, because many such relationships involve insects, and an 
insect that is abundant all year round is a far more reliable 
partner. In the case of plants, the great distance between 
individuals of the same species creates a need for effective and 
energetic pollinators, while the competitive nature of the rain 
forest environment demands good seed dispersal. So there have 
been strong incentives for plants to form close ties with animals. 
Added to this, the rain forests have generally enjoyed a relatively 
long period of climatic stability in which coevolution - the 
process whereby two species adapt to each other - could proceed 

An intriguing feature of the rain forests are the extensive 
networks of relationship that have developed, sometimes in- 
volving a dozen or more species. For example, a water-storing 
bromeliad has relationships with its pollinators, its seed- 
dispersers, the tree on which it lives (see page 68), the many 
animals that live or breed in its water stores, and those that live in 
the debris around its roots. Some of these will be give-and-take 
relationships; others more one-way. Often there is one central 
relationship upon which the others depend, such as that between 
ants and ant-plants or between figs and fig-wasps. Such associa- 
tions have been described as "keystone mutualisms". The great 
concern of all conservationists is that, as the rain forests become 
increasingly fragmented, such interdependence will crumble for 
lack of a keystone animal or plant. 

A useful parasite (left) - The 
cuckoo-like giant cowbird 
(Scaphidura oryzivora) of Latin 
America, is a "brood parasite" 
which lays its eggs in the 
hanging nests of caciques and 
oropendolas. Unlike the cuckoo, 
the giant cowbird chick shares 
the nest with the hosts' chicks, 
but it is nonetheless parasitic, 
because it deprives them of much 
of their food. However, the 
cowbird chick does its nestmates 
some good, because it eats some 
of the parasitic botflies that enter 
the nest, and pecks off the botfly 
maggots from the other chick's 
flesh, thus reducing their level of 
infestation. When caciques and 
oropendolas nest close to the 
nests of aggressive bees or wasps, 
the birds chase away giant 
cowbirds, but when they are 
nesting alone they tolerate the 
cowbirds. presumably because 
the good they do outweighs 
the bad. 



Wasp guardians {left, above) - 
Oropendolas and caciques 
provide a good example of the 
complex webs of 
interrelationships that are 
typical of the rain forest. They 
build hanging nests (left) to keep 
out predators, but are 
nonetheless plagued by parasitic 
botflies (above). These lay their 
eggs on the nestlings, and the 
maggots eat into the young birds' 
flesh. As a defence, the birds try 
to nest in a tree where there are 

stinging wasps or biting bees, 
both of which are highly 
aggressive in defence of the area 
around their nests. The wasps or 
bees reduce the number of bot- 
flies in the vicinity, as well as 
deterring egg- and nestling- 
predators such as opossums, 
toucans and snakes. These 
aggressive insects also attack 
their avian neighbours at first, 
but these attacks soon decline, 
and the distinctive musty smell of 
the birds is believed to play a 
part in familiarizing the wasps or 
bees with their presence. A third 
element in this network of 
relationships is the presence of 
non-aggressive wasps and bees. 
They build their nests near by 
and, like the birds, benefit from 
the furious self-defence of their 
insect neighbours, although 
giving nothing in return. 

The black palm and the agouti 

Coevolution - the process by which two species adapt to 
each other - is a complex business, often involving many 
other species besides the two main players, and rarely 
resulting in a perfect relationship. Few associations 
illustrate this as well as the unlikely alliance of the agouti 
and the black palm (Astrocaryum standleyanum.) 

The black palm guards its unripe fruit with needle-like 
spines on the trunk and leaves. Only when ripe, with the 
seed protected by a rock-hard case, do the fruits drop to the 
ground. Once there, the rich fruity smell attracts pacas, 
coatis and opossums, which eat the fruit and discard the 
seed. Although this disperses the seeds, it does them little 
good. Peccaries find them and crush the seed cases open to 
get at the seeds, while spiny pocket mice and squirrels 
gnaw their way through. Those seeds that escape fall 
victim to bruchid beetles which lay their eggs on them; the 
larvae can bore through the hard seed coat. 

The only animal that actually benefits the black palm is, 
paradoxically, an accomplished seed thief, the agouti. It 
eats some of the seeds, but it buries many more for later 
use. Before doing so, the agouti instinctively strips away 
the fruit from the case. Experiments have shown that the 
seeds will only survive when treated in this way. If buried 
unpeeled, they fall victim to bruchid beetles, which have 
already laid their eggs on the skin of the fruit, and whose 
larvae burrow through to the seed after burial. 

The puzzling aspect of this relationship is that the fruit, 
which must have originally evolved to tempt seed dis- 
persers, is usually discarded by the agouti. It seems likely 
that when the tree's dispersal strategy first evolved, 
bruchid beetles, and possibly mice, were less common. So 
seeds that were left on the surface, but stripped of their 
fruit, had a reasonable chance of germinating. The 
increased numbers of beetle larvae and small rodents 
mean that the agouti is now the key to the survival of the 
black palm. 


Feeding the forest 

Seeing the luxuriant growth of the tropical rain forests in South- 
east Asia, the early European colonists eagerly imagined the 
abundant harvests that could be obtained from farms and 
plantations. The forests were cleared and crops planted, but the 
results were largely disappointing - after a few years, the land 
produced little. In rain forests elsewhere in the world it was the 
same story, and the tragedy is still being repeated today as 
landless peasants move into the rain forests of Amazonia and 
Indonesia. Once the forest has gone, the soil deteriorates, usually 
leading to the abandonment of the land within a few years. 

The standard explanation for this is that the soil is lacking in 
the mineral nutrients needed for plant growth - principally 
nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. 
According to this view, the forest trees themselves store most of 
the nutrients in this ecosystem, and are adapted to scavenge any 
nutrients in the fallen leaves and other forest litter. Nutrients are 
quickly sucked back into the living components of the ecosystem, 
and few are left in the soil to be washed away by rain. 

There is one type of rain forest that fits this description 
particularly well, and that is the lowland rain forest of the 
Amazon Basin, although even here there is enormous variation. 
The tall terra firme forests which grow on acidic soils are short of 
calcium, and in some parts no snails are found, there being too 
little calcium to build shells. The heath forests, known locally as 
caatinga, which grow on coarse sandy soil, have enough calcium 
but are lacking in nitrogen and phosphorus, which stunts the 
growth of the trees. 

The underlying problem in the Amazon Basin is that the soil 
and subsoil are naturally infertile and have been further drained 
of nutrients by the incessant rain that has fallen over many 
millions of years. In temperate forests, nutrients are leached 
away, but the weathering of the subsoil, which produces fresh 
soil, makes good the loss. In the Amazon Basin, the subsoil itself 
is already impoverished. 

To make matters worse, the Amazonian soils are lacking in 
substances which can hold nutrients. This is particularly true of 
the sandy soils underlying the caatinga, and any nutrients 
washed into the soil from the leaf litter are quickly leached away. 
The trees are adapted to cope with this situation by having a 
spongy mat of tangled rootlets on top of the soil to intercept 
nutrients before they are washed away. From these root mats, 
vertical rootlets grow upwards into the leaf litter to grip fallen 
leaves or fruit in a hungry embrace. The roots are coated by fungi, 
known as mycorrhizals, which attach themselves to decomposing 
leaves, channelling nutrients such as phosphorus directly back 
to the root. Such partnerships between plant roots and fungi are 
known in other parts of the world, but are of particular 
importance in the rain forest. 

In the interests of nutrition, the trees on these depleted soils 
are prepared to sprout roots anywhere. Hollow trees may produce 
internal rootlets to tap the layer of debris left by animal 
inhabitants. Trees also send rootlets into the debris that collects 
around epiphytes on their branches, to scour this for minerals. 
The epiphytes themselves have various devices for capturing 
extra nutrients (see page 66-67): the pools of water that collect in 
bromeliads supply the plants with minerals from fallen leaves and 
animals living in them. 

Compared with these starvation conditions, some rain forest 
trees live a life of luxury, particularly those growing on volcanic 
soils. None of the forests studied in Asia, Africa or Australasia is 
so impoverished that the nutrients are all locked up in the 
vegetation. Even within the Amazon Basin there are areas of 
more fertile soil, especially in the flooded vdrzeas along the banks 
of the Amazon and its tributaries. Yet on a world scale, all 
tropical rain forest soils are somewhat infertile, due to the 
perennial leaching by rainfall. The trees also have to contend 
with the effect of rainfall on their leaves, washing out nutrients 
such as potassium which must then be recouped from the soil by 
the roots. 

Swallowtail butterflies: the attraction of salt 

These butterflies have congregated to feed on a river bank 
in Sarawak. Southeast Asia. The cause of all the interest is 
a puddle of urine left by a passing mammal, which contains 
salts the butterflies lack. Usually it is only the male 
butterflies that come to feed: they provide salts along with 
their sperm when they mate, and the female uses the salts 
to replenish those lost during egg production. It seems 
likely that the females prefer those males which can 
supply salts. While feeding on urine, the butterflies take in 
a great deal of liquid, extract the salts, and eliminate the 
rest - every few seconds, a large drop of water is squirted 
out of the anus. Butterflies also feed at river margins and 
on dry, salt-rich ground. Some species are attracted to 
dung or to animal corpses, possibly in search of nitrogen 
compounds or other nutrients. 


Forest fungi (above) - The 
fruiting bodies of this bracket 
fungus are emerging from a piece 
of dead wood. Not all fungi are 
decomposers. Some are parasites, 
feeding on live wood. 

Using the sun's energy (right) - 
Life on earth is based on the 
power of the sun's rays. The same 
radiant energy that can blister 
human skin or melt a glacier is 
harnessed by plants and used to 
make sugar. In a complex 
chemical reaction, known as 
photosynthesis, the plant 
combines carbon dioxide (CO,), 
which its leaves extract from the 
air, with water (H2O) drawn up 
from the soil by its roots. Six 
atoms of carbon are linked 
together in a chain to form a 
molecule of glucose (CsHijOe) 
and surplus oxygen is returned to 
the atmosphere. Carbon chains 
such as this are the basis of all 
life's diverse chemistry. Although 
often under cloudy skies, tropical 
rain forests receive ample 
radiation from the sun, simply 
because they are near the 
equator. When combined with 
high temperatures and plentiful 
supplies of water, this fuels an 
expansive growth of trees and 
other plants. The productivity of 

□ Carbon in long- Reispiiati 
chain molecules 

□ Carbon released into 
the atmosphere 

□ CO2 **fixed" in long- 
chain molecules 

□ Transfer of carbon 

I I Carbon in long- /X 
' — ' chain molecules n r^ 
Carbon released as 
' COi or methane 

^2 in the atmosphere 

a tropical rain forest is colossal. 
Each year, it creates about 25-30 
tonnes per hectare (10-12 tons per 
acre) of new growth, twice as 
much as a temperate oak wood, 
and more than three times as 
much as a northern coniferous 
forest. A large rain forest tree 
can make more than 1.5 kgs (3 lbs 
5 oz) of pure glucose a day. Of 
this, 60% is broken down again 
as the tree respires, releasing 
energy to fuel the plant's life 
processes. The other 40% is 
transformed chemically into 
substances such as proteins or 
cellulose, to make the fabric of 
the tree. Plant-feeding animals 
absorb these molecules, alter 
them to suit their own needs and 
use them to build up their bodies. 

Carnivores do the same with the 
animal bodies they consume. At 
each stage in this food chain the 
complex carbon molecules the 
plant originally built up are 
passed on. About 10% are 
rearranged chemically, but not 
broken down. The rest are split 
apart, as the plant or animal 
respires, to unleash the energy 
they contain- Those complex 
carbon molecules that remain, in 
fallen leaves and trees, animal 
dung, or the dead bodies of 
animals, provide food for fungi, 
bacteria and other decomposers, 
which break them down. With 
this last step, the energy 
originally invested by the sun is 
dissipated, and the remaining 
carbon chains dismantled. Much 

of the carbon returns to the air 
as carbon dioxide. But where 
decomposition takes place under 
water, as happens in swamp 
forests and the seasonally flooded 
vdrzeas and igapos of the 
Amazon, a different process 
occurs. There is no oxygen to 
make carbon dioxide, and 
methane (CH^) is released 
instead. The same breakdown 
process occurs in the intestines 
of termites, which are major rain 
forest decomposers, consuming 
up to 17% of the leaf litter in 
some Malaysian forests. Methane 
is an important greenhouse gas, 
but it is not known whether 
tropical rain forests are net 
producers or net consumers of 
this gas. 


In some of the Asian forests there is a suspicion that not all the 
nutrients present in the soil are accessible to plant roots, because 
the trees show adaptations for scavenging nutrients above 
ground, similar to those of Amazonia. Heath forests and forests 
growing on the crests of ridges in Sarawak both have root mats, 
and some Asian rain forest trees support colonies of bacteria in 
their leaves which can make usable nitrogen compounds from the 
nitrogen in the air. (Although "nitrogen-fixing" bacteria that 
live in plant roots are common around the world, only these rain 
forest trees have such bacteria in their leaves.) 

The heath forests are also home to many carnivorous plants, 
which capture insects for extra minerals, and to the ant plants 
(Myrmecodia spp.) whose tiny inhabitants provide debris to 
nourish them. The soils of these heath forests cannot support 
agriculture, as shown by the Indonesian transmigration pro- 
gramme to central Kalimantan (see page 41), nor can they be 
reafforested if the soil has been at all disturbed. The exact reasons 
for this are unknown, but it seems that without the forest cover 
irreversible changes occur in the soil. 

Decomposers: feeding on rotting matter 

The recycling of nutrients through the breakdown of dead 
animals and plants is important in all ecosystems, but particu- 
larly so in the rain forest where low soil fertility often leaves little 
to spare. The organisms that act as decomposers are known as 
"saprotrophs" which literally means "putrid nourishment". 
They have become adapted to feed on dead material - fallen 
leaves and branches, animal dung and urine, corpses, moulted 
skin and any other remains. In feeding on these substances, they 
also break them down. 

Often one group of decomposers - usually insects - begins the 
process by chewing into the remains, opening them up to invasion 
by fungi and bacteria. These can tackle a wider range of chemical 
compounds than can insects and thus take the process of 
decomposition further. 

One of the most difficult tasks chemically is breaking down 
cellulose, the major constituent of leaves. Fungi are able to do so, 
using special enzymes, and so can some bacteria. Even more 
challenging than cellulose is lignin, the fibrous element in wood, 
and the chemical equivalent of a burglar-proof safe. A few fungi 
can tackle lignin and are thus of major importance in any forest. 
So too are the termites, which can account for as much as 70 
percent (by weight) of the invertebrates in the leaf litter. Some 
break down plant material with the help of protozoa (single- 
celled animals) or bacteria living in their digestive system. Others 
enlist the help of fungi to breakdown partially digested leaves. 

It is important to remember that decomposers feed on the 
remains of living things because it suits them - the natural 
world's "rubbish" represents an abundant and accessible source 
of food. Their action also releases nutrients such as nitrogen, 
phosphorus and iron from dead remains, which is of enormous 
benefit to other animals and plants. Without decomposers life 
would eventually grind to a halt for lack of nutrients. But their 
assistance to other life forms is just an unintentional side-effect: 
decomposers are no more altruistic than other living things. 

Decomposition is rapid in the tropical rain forest, thanks to the 
great warmth and moisture in the environment, but it is not as 
exceptionally fast as is often believed. The rate at which the leaf 
litter breaks down is equalled by some temperate broadleaved 
forests. Indeed, there is one type of tropical rain forest where the 
rate of breakdown is actually very slow. In montane forest, also 
known as cloud forest, the ground is waterlogged, because the 
forest is usually shrouded in mist, making the atmosphere 
exceptionally moist. Temperatures are fairly low, owing to the 
altitude, and the combination of cold and waterlogging (which 
limits the amount of oxygen available) puts a brake on the decay 
processes. A layer of peat - unrotted acidic plant material - builds 
up on the forest floor and nutrients are imprisoned in the peat 
layer, so that the trees grow up stunted and gnarled. 

Termites (top, above) - Some 
termites' nests are built largely 
of their droppings, glued together 
with saliva to set like mortar. 
Those termites that cultivate 
fungus gardens, however, build 
nests out of soil, because their 
droppings feed the fungi. Nests 
are often rich in mineral salts, 
and may be eaten by monkeys 
and other animals, to supplement 
their diet or to aid digestion of 
leaves. Unoccupied nests are a 
good seed-bed for sprouting trees. 

Catching the nutrients (right) - 
With the leaf litter kicked away 
by passing feet, the tangled mass 
of tree roots, along with the mat 
of fine rootlets that overlies the 
soil, is revealed on this trail 
through the Sarawak forest. Such 
root mats are typical of rain 
forests on extremely infertile soil. 
They absorb minerals that are 
leached out of the decomposing 
leaf litter and prevent them from 
being washed away. 




Structure by strata 

The most lasting impression of a rain forest is one of overwhelm- 
ing, cavernous greenery in which there is little evidence of other 
life. With year-round warmth and ample moisture, plants rule in 
the rain forest as nowhere else on earth. Only 0.0002 percent of 
the biomass (dry weight of living organisms) in one area of 
Amazon rain forest was found to consist of animals, and almost 70 
percent of these were decomposers (see pages 58-59). 

As well as being the warmest and wettest habitat for plant life, 
the interior of the rain forest is also one of the darkest. Of all the 
regions of the world, the tropics receive the most sunlight, but 
only one to two percent of this reaches the forest floor. As a result, 
competition for light is the driving force behind the structure of 
the rain forest. Plants tend to form bands or strata of foliage at 
different levels above the ground, each one filtering out yet more 
light, which successively reduces the amount of light and the 
temperature, while increasing the humidity, of the level below. 
Each level therefore has its own microclimate. 

A walk through any mixed temperate forest will also reveal 
strata: a canopy of the tallest trees, with an understorey of 
smaller or younger trees, beneath which grows a layer of shrubs. 
At ground level a layer of herbaceous plants grows among the 
seedlings of shrubs and trees. What is unique in the rain forest is 
the range of different strata, the vast numbers of different plants 
in each layer, and the enormous difference in light levels between 
the upper and lower strata. 

More than 40 types of rain forest have been described by 
botanists. Factors such as soil, altitude and latitude (both of 
which cause variations in temperature and rainfall), and whether 
or not the forest is subject to flooding, hurricanes and other 
natural catastrophes, and to what degree, influence the numbers 
and distribution of species and the overall structure. Some 
lowland rain forests may have five strata, montane forests two or 
three, and certain types of forest are arguably not stratified at all. 
In any case, the strata are often obscured by the sheer amount of 
vegetation, especially that of the climbers and lianas (see pages 
68-69) which link all the levels. Although some plants, such as 
epiphytes (see pages 66-67), complete their life cycles at one 
particular level, others are able to grow towards the light from 
the shaded forest floor. Some canopy trees have large seeds, 
which fuel an initial spurt of growth; but when established, the 
saplings can endure many years of minimal growth, waiting for a 
light gap to appear. Although shade-tolerant when young, most of 
these trees need full light for mature growth, flowering and 
fruiting. Other canopy trees can germinate only where there is 
plenty of light. 

The densest layer of vegetation in most primary forest is at 
about 20-30 metres (65-100 feet) above the floor, where the 
canopy trees, laden with epiphytes and climbers, branch into 
countless umbrellas of leaves. This zone is exposed to the full 
glare of the sun, bathed in temperatures of 32°C (90°F) or more, 
although the humidity is only about 60 percent. It is the 
powerhouse of the forest, where most of the photosynthesis (see 
page 57) takes place. Much of the flowering and fruiting also 
takes place in this zone, and attracts many insects and larger 
animals that consume the produce. 

At the other extreme is the forest floor: the air is still, the 
humidity around 90 percent, and the temperature around 28°C 
(82°F). In the unrelieved gloom, among the buttress and prop 
roots of the trees, only shade-tolerant plants can survive. At 
ground level, some primary evergreen rain forests are so dark 
that the forest floor may be fairly bare and easy to walk through; 
but in more open forests, where the light levels are higher, the 
forest floor is a "jungle" of herbaceous plants and juvenile trees, 
shrubs and lianas. A more luxuriant understorey is also charac- 
teristic of the monsoon forests of Asia, which are found at the 
edge of the true rain forest in Indonesia, Thailand and India. This 
type of forest has a marked dry season in which most of the trees 
lose their leaves, enabling many more plants to thrive on the 
forest floor. 

Drip tips (above) Many of the 
plants on the forest floor have 
narrow, downward-pointing tips. 
These "drip tips" speed the loss 
of water from the leaves, an 
important adaptation for plants 
growing in heavily shaded, wet 
conditions. Without these tips, 
the leaves would be almost 
constantly wet. This surface film 
of water would reflect light, leach 
nutrients and encourage 
colonization by tiny epiphytes. 


Buttress root 




canopy tree 


Light-trapping mosaic - The 

rain forest canopy is composed of 
closely spaced trees with fiat, 
spreading crowns. Individual 
crowns may be very large, 
supported on a simple pattern of 
branches which resemble the 
spokes of an umbrella. The 
crowns of neighbouring trees fit 
together like pieces of a jigsaw 
puzzle, but remain about a metre 
(3.3 ft) apart: a phenomenon 
known as "crown shyness". This 
spacing is not fully understood; it 

could prevent damage in high 
winds or the spread of plant- 
eating insect larvae. Looking 
closely at the mosaic pattern 
produced by such "shyness", it is 
possible to see mosaics within 
mosaics. The arrangement of 
leaves on a stem, and on the 
plant as a whole, is organized so 
that there is the minimum 
amount of overlap; each leaf is 
positioned so that it can absorb 
all the light it needs to 
photosynthesize efficiently. 


Tree life cycles 

Trees form the superstructure of the rain forest; it is their crowns 
that make aerial walkways for animals and roof gardens for 
epiphytes; their foliage that plunges the understorey into the 
cool, humid shade which nurtui-es seedlings and other delicate 
plants: their roots that collect scarce nutrients; and their mighty 
trunks that support the great weight of the canopy. The diversity 
of tropical tree species is immense. There are commonly 50-200 
different species per hectare (2.5 acres), compared with ten 
species in a similar area of temperate woodland. 

In spite of this diversity, many tropical trees look superficially 
alike and for this reason are difficult even for botanists to 
identify. It is therefore possible to generalize about their 
characteristics and describe a "typical" tree. The great majority 
of rain forest trees are about 30 metres (100 feet) tall, although 
some reach 60 metres (200 feet) or more. They have slender, 
unbranched trunks, smooth bark and a simple branching system 
(see pages 60-61). Few exceed one metre (3.3 feet) in girth, 
although giants 17 metres (56 feet) across have been found. The 
wood can be extremely hard and resistant to termites and other 
wood-boring insects. A few species, such as ironwood (Eusiderox- 
ylon zwageri), are so hard that even driving a nail into the trunk is 
difficult. The root system is very shallow and the tree is supported 
largely by buttresses or prop roots, which can extend five metres 
(16 feet) up the trunk. Many tropical trees are evergreen, 
shedding a few leaves throughout the year. The leaves are 
generally oval, undivided, thick and leathery. 

An evergreen rain forest tree grows all year round and 
therefore has no annua! growth rings. It may live anything from 
150 to 1,400 years and usually takes 30-60 years to reach maturity 
and begin flowering. Even when mature, many do not flower and 
fruit annually, but only once in three to ten years. There may be 
an element of time-sharing between species using the same 
pollinators and dispersers. In addition, overproduction can be 
self-defeating, leading to population explosions of pests. 

The obvious exceptions to this "typical" tree are those which 
are not evergreen. Semi-evergreen and seasonal forests (see pages 
16-19) are common at the outer limits of the equatorial rain forest 
belt, in rain shadow areas and regions adjoining savanna. During 
the dry season, the deciduous trees not only shed their leaves but 
most of them also flower, so that the seeds are ripe and ready to 
germinate when the rains come. 

Getting a start in life 

Tropical trees, whether evergreen or deciduous, have similar 
requirements and tend to grow cheek by jowl. This density, 
together with their longevity, means that finding a growing place 
is one of the main problems that most trees have to contend with. 
They are not specialists, each species adapted to a different niche, 
but competitors over time and space. Alhough many are able to 
play the waiting game until they can take advantage of a gap 
caused by the fall of taller trees, others can only grow where there 
is plenty of light. Some species have devised ways of making space 
by usurping another's place or, strange as it may seem, by 
surrendering their place so that others of the same species may 
live. Strangler figs (Ficus spp.) are the usurpers par excellence, 
while at the other extreme are those species which flower only 
once, often en masse, and then die when their fruits have ripened. 
The talipot palm (Corypha elata) spends decades as a juvenile 
before producing its swan song: an inflorescence two metres (6.5 
feet) long, bearing 60 million individual flowers. 

After competition for space, the next most pressing problem for 
rain forest trees is that of eking out a living on nutrient-poor 
tropical soils. A number of tactics, such as rooting above ground 
or living in association with root fungi, are shared by many 
different trees (see pages 56-59). Also, it is no coincidence that a 
lot of trees belong to the pea family, Legtmiinosae, many of which 
have root nodules that contain bacteria capable of converting 
atmospheric nitrogen into a form the tree can use. 

Buttresses (left) - Growmg 
mostly on very shallow soils, 
many trees have little in the way 
of underground root systems. 
Instead, they are supported by 
roots which are largely above 
ground. In some species, these 
roots take the form of buttresses; 
thin strong flanges which may 
extend 5 m (16.5 ft) up the trunk. 
If these supports are cut away, 
the tree can easily be pushed 
over. In addition to providing 
support, the buttresses may assist 
in feeding. Instead of a tap root, 
the buttresses span a wide area, 
sending down fine feeding roots 
into the soil. 

Mangrove prop roots (above) - 
Prop or stilt roots serve a 
purpose similar to buttresses 
(left), providing support in 
situations where underground 
roots are inappropriate. This type 
of root system is especially 
common in flooded and mangrove 
forests. It consists of stout aerial 
roots which arch out from the 
trunk and grow down towards 
the substrate, dividing on contact 
into a number of finger-like 
rootlets. The resulting scaffold of 
roots traps sediment, stabilizing 
the mangrove plant against the 
pull of the flood, or the flow and 
ebb of the tide. 



Seedling strategies (above)- 
Some long-lived canopy trees 
produce large seeds. The rich 
food store in the seed enables the 
solitary seedling to shoot up - in 
some cases to a metre (3.3 ft) tall 
before putting out leaves. Others 
(for example, the dipterocarp 
trees of Southeast Asia) have 
winged seeds that fall to the 
ground en masse. This mass 
invasion swamps both predators 
and available space, ensuring 
that a large number of relatively 
small seedlings become 
established. Yet another strategy 
is used by short-lived trees such 
as Cecropia spp. (see page 65). 

Young leaves (above) - Tropical 
trees tend to produce new leaves 
in "flushes" rather than a few at 
a time. When this happens the 
tree looks from a distance as if it 
IS flowering. The limp new leaves 
are borne in drooping clusters 
and are often completely 
different in colour from the older 
leaves - red, bright pink, bronze 
or white. The chemicals that 
cause these colours may protect 
the tender new leaves against 
strong light and deter herbivores 
until the leaves expand and 
darken into the 

characteristically tough, leathery 
mature foliage. In addition, 
producing a large number of new 
leaves all at once "floods the 
market", ensuring that most of 
the leaves reach maturity before 
they are damaged by herbivores. 

Strangler fig: usurping another's place 

There are many different species of strangler fig (Ficus 
spp.) in the rain forest. Each species has its own specific 
wasp pollinator and fruits prolifically (100,000 fruits have 
been found on a single tree). The small seeds are dispersed 
by the many birds and monkeys that depend on the fruits 
for food. Now and again one of these countless seeds 
lodges in the branch of a tree and germinates. The seedling 
first sends out a long aerial root. When contact with the 
ground is made, the young fig starts to grow, putting out 
more roots from its perch to the ground, and developing 
stems and leaves. Eventually the host tree is smothered by 
the fig's foliage, its trunk is encased in its roots, and it dies. 
In this way, the fig avoids the competition on the ground, 
usurping the place of a tree which already stands tall. 


Light gaps 

From time to time, mature trees fall down, leaving a gap in the 
canopy which gives younger plants a chance to develop. They fall 
for a number of reasons: some are felled by people who live in the 
forest; others fall after being struck by lightning or high winds; 
but most fall simply because of old age, often hastened by termite 
damage or epiphyte burden. The gap torn through the forest is 
usually quite large, for a single tree, linked to its neighbours by 
immensely strong, elastic lianas, inevitably brings others down 
with it. At any one time the rain forest is a mosaic of ancient 
forest and light gaps that are in various stages of regrowth. 
Disturbance is the key to vitality and diversity in a habitat such 
as this that is otherwise extremely stable and dominated by long- 
lived species. 

The opening of a light gap shakes the forest's equilibrium to its 
foundations. The dense ceiling of vegetation that normally 
shelters the interior of the forest, keeping it cool, humid, 
breathlessly still and in deep shade, is suddenly removed, 
allowing an influx of bright light and fresh air. In the gap the 
temperature is higher and the humidity lower than the surround- 
ing forest, and as the damaged vegetation decays it releases 
nutrients. This gives a tremendous boost to the seedlings and 
saplings of primary forest species which may have been in a state 
of suspended animation for many years, waiting for such an event 
to continue their life cycles. 

Animals soon move in, and before long there is a new influx of 
seeds from the surrounding forest. It is a highly competitive, 
dynamic phase. The young "jungle" grows quickly and in less 
than ten years has the same leaf density as that of the mature 
forest, although it has not yet reached the same height. During 
the flrst 15 years there is a rapid increase in species diversity; 
within 40-50 years, the gap will almost have closed, but the 
species present may be quite different from their predecessors. 
Diversity continues to build up, albeit slowly, even after a 
century has elapsed, until the gap finally becomes indistinguish- 
able from its surroundings. 

Many primary forest trees have adapted to the unpredictable 
way in which light gaps appear by having large seeds and shade- 
tolerant seedlings. Fuelled by the food reserves contained in the 
seed, the seedling establishes itself on the forest floor, but then 
undergoes painfully slow growth until a gap occurs and it 
receives sufficient light and warmth to burst into life and grow 
towards the light. Without this stimulus it can never reach its full 
size or reproduce, for the mature tree is dependent upon the 
bright light and life of the canopy. This type of tree predominates 
in the Amazon rain forest. 

A catastrophic disturbance in the rain forest, such as a 
hurricane, volcanic eruption, earthquake or landslide, creates a 
swathe of destruction that is much larger than the gap caused by 
the fall of a single tree. The regeneration of large gaps is quite 
different from that of small gaps, involving rapid colonization by 
opportunistic, short-lived trees, such as the New World Cecropia 
species (members of the nettle family, Urticaceae) or the Old 
World Macaranga species, which in turn provide the necessary 
shade and humidity for canopy species to become established. 

Cecropia trees do not reach a great height or age, seldom 
exceeding 18 metres (60 feet) and living only 30-80 years. They do 
however perform a vital role in the regeneration of large gaps, 
providing quick cover for the vulnerable root mat, encouraging 
animals to visit and take up residence in the disturbed area, and 
creating the necessary shade in which an understorey of primary 
forest "small gap" saplings can develop. As the pioneering 
Cecropia trees die out, small gaps are created which allow the 
longer-lived species to develop. 

Catastrophic disturbance by natural means, whether it creates 
a small or a large gap, is quite different in its effects on the forest 
from selective or clear felling (see pages 182-183), or from large- 
scale burning. Unlike fire and heavy machinery, natural distur- 
bances do not destroy the root mat, which in many cases is all that 
stands between the forest and desert. 





Montane light gap (far left) - In 
this montane rain forest in 
Venezuela, especially where the 
canopy is fairly open, the 
appearance of a light gap does 
not affect the environment 
within the forest as much as it 
might in a closed-canopy lowland 
forest. Saplings and shrubs grow 
to fill the space left by the fallen 
tree which, because of the lower 
temperatures found at altitude, 
decomposes comparatively 

Reaching for the light (left) - In 
the tangle of lianas that connect 
many of the trees in this rain 
forest in Southeast Asia, a falling 
tree usually brings down others 
with it. At once the saplings 
present in the gap respond to the 
increased light levels and put on 
a spurt of growth in an attempt 
to reach the canopy. 

Filling the large gaps 

Cecropia trees fruit often and heavily. A single tree 
produces about 900.000 small seeds which are widely 
dispersed by fruit bats at night and birds during the day. 
The seeds remain viable for two years, and are present in 
soil throughout the forest in surprising numbers - an 
average of 73 seeds per square metre (11 square feet) has 
been recorded. Germination is rapid when a large gap 
provides suitably high temperatures and bright light. The 
young trees put all their energy into growth, investing 
little in defensive measures such as hard wood and toxic 
leaves. The trunks are hollow and the wood so light that it 
is often used for floats by local people. Cecropia foliage is 
palatable, providing a staple diet for many different 
animals, including sloths and monkeys. 

Competition in large light gaps is fierce, particularly 
from juvenile climbers which constantly threaten to 
overwhelm young trees. Cecropia beats the opposition by 
employing gardeners, in the form of non-stinging Azteca 
ants. The ants are housed in the hollow branches and feed 
on drops of nectar exuded from special nectaries on the 
leaves, and on food capsules, known as Miillerian bodies, 
which are situated at the base of each leaf stalk. The 
capsules contain protein and glycogen, an animal starch 
which Cecropia alone among plants is known to produce. 
In return, the ants patrol the tree vigilantly, severing the 
tendrils and twining stems of invading climbers, and 
throwing overboard any germinating epiphytes. Thus 
unhampered, the young trees grow 2.5 metres (eight feet) 
a year. 

Azleca ants (above right). Cecropia tree (right). 


Epiphytes: plants on plants 

In almost any temperate forest some mosses and lichens are 
ordinarily visible on the bark of the trees. These epiphytes - 
plants that live on other plants - often form a thin layer over the 
surface of their host. What is different about the rain forest is the 
number and diversity of epiphyte species. In addition to the usual 
mosses, lichens and ferns, there are orchids, cacti, bromeliads 
(members of the pineapple family, Bromeliaceae), aroids (plants 
of the arum family, Araceae) and representatives from numerous 
other plant families. So numerous are the epiphytes on many 
trees that their leaf area may exceed that of the tree on which 
they are growing. Epiphytes are not parasitic, in the sense that 
their roots do not penetrate the host plant's tissues, but they do 
compete for light and nutrients, and may contribute to the demise 
of the host by their burden. 

A quarter of all plant species in lowland rain forest are 
epiphytes. Montane forest may have an even greater proportion, 
due to the exceptionally high atmospheric humidity which 
encourages their proliferation. Indeed, almost all montane forest 
plants, other than the trees, seem to be epiphytic, for every 
surface has a thick covering of moss in which other plants may 
then take root. Tropical America alone has an estimated 1.5,500 
epiphytic species. African rain forests have fewer epiphytes than 
other rain forests, perhaps because many of them became extinct 
during the successive dry periods that were a feature of the last 
Ice Age, whose impact was more severe there than elsewhere. 
Even so, 47 different species of orchid have been recorded on a 
single West African tree. 

Like other rain forest plants, epiphytic species tend to occur in 
strata. Canopy epiphytes are exposed to sun. wind and occasional 
dry periods. As a result, they show many of the same adaptations 
as desert species: foliage that is either thick and leathery or very 
narrow to prevent dehydration and scorching, and extremely 
efficient ways of absorbing and storing water. In contrast, 
epiphytic species in the understorey have to contend with low 
light and permanently damp conditions. Consequently, they 
often have thinner leaves, "drip tips" (see page 60) at the ends of 
the leaves to get rid of excess water, and corrugated or velvety 
textures which increase the surface area and thus the light- 
gathering capacity of the leaf 

The epiphytic way of life is precarious. The host tree may shed 
its bark periodically to rid itself of epiphytes, or it may lose limbs 
under the weight of wet vegetation (which may total several 
tonnes per tree). Eventually it will die and decay. Such events 
spell doom for most of the epiphytes in the higher reaches, for 
they are unlikely to survive the fall or the damp, shady conditions 
on the forest floor. But these hazards must be weighed against the 
advantage, in a habitat dominated by tall plants, of gaining 
access to the light without investing in lengthy stems. 

Survival techniques 

The success and abundance of epiphytes in the tropics depends on 
a number of factors. High atmospheric humidity, more than high 
annual rainfall, is essential to prevent drying out. The plants 
must have a secure means of attachment. There are often two 
different root systems, one that clasps firmly to the host, and 
another that penetrates debris or grows freely in the air to collect 
moisture. Epiphytes need ingenious means of making the most of 
irregular supplies of water and nutrients. Many have swollen 
stems or leaves arranged like funnels to collect water. They must 
also be prolific and adaptable in their reproductive strategies. 
The right conditions for flowering may be few and far between, so 
many species have adapted to this by reproducing asexually in 
the meantime. 

Other survival techniques include living in association with 
root fungi (mycorrhizas), which provide essential nutrients and 
especially at the seedling stage, or with ants, which pack grains 
of soil and debris around the roots to make their nests (far right, 
bottom). Ant-garden epiphytes include aroids, bromeliads, ges- 
neriads, epiphyllums and peperomias. 

Fine seed {right) - The seeds of 
orchids such as Stanhopea tigrina 
are as fine as powder. Although 
the seed is widely dispersed by 
the gentlest of breezes, suitable 
growing places are scarce and 
the minute seeds have no food 
reserves. Successful germination 
and growth depend upon the 
presence of root fungi which 
provide vital nutrients. Orchids 
are slow to grow and take years 
to reach flowering size. Even 
then, conditions for flowering - 
such as a pronounced dry period 
- may not occur annually. In the 
meantime, the plant invests a lot 
of energy in producing new 
growths, each of which is capable 
of independent existence, should 
it be severed from the parent 
plant. Such new growths improve 
the chances of pollination in that 
they produce a more noticeable 
display of flowers to attract the 
orchid's insect pollinators. 




Litter basket epiphyte - A 

number of epiphytes, including 
the giant aroid Anthurium 
salviniae, grow as a rosette of 
leaves which funnels rain, dew 
and debris into the centre of the 
plant. Although superficially 
similar to the vases of epiphytic 
bromeliads, the rosette contains 
an arboreal compost heap rather 

than a reservoir of water. Two 
kinds of roots are produced: 
adhesive, clasping roots which 
attach the plant firmly to the 
host tree; and short, upward- 
growing roots which penetrate 
the damp, decomposing litter, 
anchoring and aerating the 
debris, and tapping the supply of 
moisture and nutrients. 

Gardens in the air (above) - 
Epiphytes do not live entirely at 
their hosts' expense. Their 
foliage and root sytems trap 
debris and moisture, building up 
an "epiphyte mat" along the host 
tree's branches and providing 
many hiding and breeding sites 
for small animals, such as insects 
and frogs, some of which live 
their entire lives in these aerial 
gardens. The mat is also a source 
of moisture and nutrients. Some 
trees actually send out aerial 
roots to tap this resource. The 
only thing that significantly 
reduces the numbers of epiphytes 
on a tree is tree travel (see page 
88-89). Most animals use well- 
established routes through the 
canopy, and the upper surface of 
a branch which bears regular 
traffic is clad in nothing more 
than a padding of moss - 
although the sides may still 
bristle with larger epiphytes. 

Ant-friendly epiphyte (right) - 
The Indonesian epiphyte 
Myrmecodia echinata clings to 
trees with its roots and develops 
swollen, tuber-like lower parts 
containing chambers that are 
inhabited by ants. The ants 
deposit organic matter in the 
chambers which they inoculate 
with fungal spores. As this 
matter decomposes, nutrients are 
released which feed both ants 
and plant. In addition, the ants 
disperse the plant's seeds and 
guard the plant against invasion 
by other epiphytes and animals. 
In exchange, the plant supplies 
the ants with nectar and a place 
to live. 


Climbing plants 

Impenetrable undergrowth and loops of lianas (woody climbing 
plants) are part of everyone's idea of a jungle. It is the lianas and 
non-woody climbers, untidily slung between the trees forming 
confused patterns, that confer the air of mystery often associated 
with rain forests. Although climbing plants occur in most plant 
families, the majority are found in the tropics. They have evolved 
very successful ways of competing for light in a habitat domi- 
nated by tall trees - not, like epiphytes (see pages 66-67), by 
perching on their competitors, but by winding and clasping their 
way up them. 

Reaching for the light 

About eight percent of the plant species in lowland rain forest are 
climbers, the highest percentage occurring in secondary forest. 
They show several different approaches to the problem of getting 
to the light. The simplest is to have a barbed stem and to use brute 
force, thrusting upward and gaining purchase by thorns which 
hook on to the surrounding vegetation. Rattans (climbing palms), 
which can reach 200 metres (650 feet) in length, use this 
technique. They also have barbed, whip-like extensions to their 
new leaves which do not unfurl until the "whip" has lashed itself 
to the next support. Pitcher plants {far right, top) also climb by 
having "whips" on the ends of their new leaves, which swell into 
pitchers as the leaf develops. 

An alternative approach is used by the climbing aroid group 
(genera of the arum family Araceae, which include Philodendron, 
Monstera. Rhaphidophora and Scindapsus). They produce two 
kinds of roots: short ones put out at right-angles to the stem, 
which develop adhesive hairs when they make contact with the 
climbing surface, and long feeding roots which may dangle in 
mid-air initially, but branch profusely as soon as they encounter 
the soil. The clasping roots often attach the plant so securely that 
it takes considerable force to tear them away. The aerial roots are 
extremely flexible and strong. When anchored, they act like 
guyropes, tethering the host tree and playing an important role in 
the structure of the forest (see pages 64-65). Local people use the 
roots of many different species for cordage, from fine weaving to 
heavy-duty ropes. Some climbers of this kind may become almost 
epiphytic. Although they germinate and begin growth on the 
forest floor, they may eventually flourish entirely in the tree tops, 
losing connection with the ground as the original roots die. 

Another approach is to put out tendrils from leaves or stems. 
This is common among lianas such as Leea spp., Cissus spp., 
Tetrastigma spp. (the host plant of the parasitic Rafflesia spp.), 
Bignonia spp. and Passiflora spp. An outstretched tendril moves 
away from the light and makes sweeping movements as it 
searches for a support. Brushing against another plant stimu- 
lates it to curl. The response is rapid: the tendril of one tropical 
American gourd curls within 20 seconds of contact and completes 
its first coil in four minutes, the tissues thickening as it does so to 
strengthen its grip. As most tendril climbers are attached only at 
their extremities, the heavy water-conducting stems tend to sag 
and loop through the vegetation. Some species have stems filled 
with water, which can be tapped by forest peoples. 

A number of tropical climbers have diiferent juvenile and adult 
forms. Juvenile foliage may differ from the adult in size, shape or 
colouring. The advantages of such diiferences are difficult to 
determine, although one possibility is that an insect searching 
for a particular plant on which to lay its eggs may not recognize 
the juveniles and so the young plant is spared until mature, when 
it is less vulnerable. In several species of Monstera, Cercestis. 
Ficus, Hoya and Marcgravia, the juveniles are known as shingle 
plants because their leaves overlap like tiles on a roof This habit 
reduces water loss to a minimum. The leaves are small, clamped to 
the host tree's bark and have pores only on the undersurface, so 
any moisture that is lost remains trapped under the leaf As soon 
as shingle plants reach the light, the foliage changes dramati- 
cally, developing long stalks and large blades: fiowering and 
fruiting can then begin. 



■ ■■.;:«•••».{ 




»■ ; t^ 

•■^.^ . 

Dangling lianas (/e/O - The 
stems and feeding roots of lianas 
dangle from the trees on which 
they are attached. Once the roots 
have grown down to the ground, 
they anchor themselves in the 
soil. Tethered and chained 
together by looping stems and 
strong flexible roots, rain forest 
trees both gain and lose from this 
close embrace. Although more 
stable in high winds, they are 
also more likely to fall in an 
inextricable tangle if a 
neighbouring tree is uprooted 
or felled. 

Clasping its host (above) - In 
addition to aerial feeding roots, 
climbing plants such as 
Phihdendron spp. put out 
clasping roots which attach the 
plant firmly to the host tree. 
These sinuous roots mould 
themselves to every contour of 
the bark. Sometimes they branch 
and fuse wherever they cross, 
forming a lattice that encases the 
tree trunk. 


Pitcher plants Of a final 
height approaching 9 m (30 ft), 
and with pitchers as much as 30 
cm (12 in) in length (which are 
usually crammed full of digested 
insects). Nepenthes raffiesiana is 
one of the most formidable of 
pitcher plants. Although insects 
are the mainstay of its diet, small 
mammals and reptiles also fall 
prey as they attempt to cash in 
on the plant's bounty. 

Shingle plant {above) - Rain 
forest climbers germinate on the 
forest floor. They then not only 
have to compete with the 
surrounding plants, but must also 
find a suitable host to support 
their growth. The most ingenious 
solution to this problem is found 
by Monstera dubia. It produces 
an exceptionally large seed 
which puts out a leafless, 
rootless, cord-like stolon. As it 
grows, the stolon is attracted to 
dark shapes, such as a host tree. 
The "search" for a host can 
extend up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) 
before its food reserves are 
exhausted. As soon as the stolon 
reaches a host it turns into a 
shingle plant and climbs 
upwards. During this stage 
Monstera dubia is adapted to 
conserve moisture, for it is not 
able to gather much water and 
may be sheltered from rain in its 
position against the tree trunk. 
When light levels are high 
enough, it produces large, long- 
stalked, leathery, mature leaves. 

Flowering and fruiting 

Two-thirds of the world's flowering plants are found only in the 
tropics. One reason for this tropical diversity is the large number 
of relationships they have forged with animals (see pages 76-79). 
In the rain forest, the web of relationships between animals and 
flowering plants is so complex that the loss of one species can lead 
to the extinction of many others. Another reason for this 
diversity lies in the fact that the climatic conditions in a rain 
forest vary little throughout the year, or even over centuries. 
This has allowed the evolution of a stable community of long- 
lived perennial plants, in which long periods elapse between 
generations, and the opportunities for new individuals to become 
established are few and far between. Consequently, competition 
between juveniles is intense: smaller trees, climbers and epi- 
phytes all face the same uphill struggle. 

There are three main strategies that a plant in this situation 
can adopt to gain an edge over its rivals. First, it can multiply its 
chances by reproducing sexually so that its offspring are as 
genetically diverse as possible. The majority of the flowering 
plants in the rain forest cannot fertilize themselves: to reproduce 
they must be cross-pollinated. (At the opposite extreme are 
habitats in which conditions are unstable. These have a high 
proportion of self-fertile annuals.) Cross-pollination depends 
largely on insect or animal pollinators because there is little wind 
in the forest to disperse pollen. There are a couple of exceptions to 
this rule. A number of canopy epiphytes, such as orchids, do use 
the wind to disperse their powder-fine seeds. The second excep- 
tion is the massive dipterocarp trees that dominate some of the 
Southeast Asian rain forests, pushing their crowns high above 
the canopy. Unless whipped up into the air by storm winds, their 
winged seeds fall to the ground only a short distance from the 
parent tree - not surprisingly, dipterocarps spread through the 
rain forest extremely slowly. 

The second strategy that a plant can adopt is to produce a mass 
of seeds to ensure that its genes have as many opportunities as 
possible for expression. Flowering and fruiting is therefore a 
major investment in terms of energy, and takes place only when 
conditions are right. Because many trees take 30 to 40 years to 
mature and seldom flower annually, when flowering and fruiting 
does take place it is often spectacular. A hectare (2.5 acres) of 
lowland rain forest produces as much fruit and seed, by weight, as 
12 hectares (30 acres) of temperate oak woodland. 

The third strategy is to ensure widespread dispersal, so that if 
the conditions are unfavourable in one location a few of the seeds 
have a chance of succeeding elsewhere. Most plants use highly 
mobile animals - such as birds, bats and monkeys - for this. 

Tropical rain forest plants are not alone in having complex 
flowering and fruiting cycles, but they do have certain character- 
istics that are either rare or unknown in other habitats. A number 
of lower canopy trees produce flowers (and subsequently fruits) 
directly from their trunks and branches, a phenomenon known as 
cauliflory. Many cauliflorous species are pollinated by bats 
which may find it easier to reach flowers that are positioned clear 
of foliage. The cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) is an exception: it is 
pollinated by midges. However, the large cauliflorous fruits do 
not fall when ripe, but are opened in situ by squirrels and 
monkeys, which can easily get to the fruits along the trunk and 
branches. The decaying pods provide breeding sites for the 
midges, which are then on hand for further pollination. 

Attracting pollinators 

Many tropical plants produce very large flowers. Those of the 
balsa tree (Ochroma lagopus) are 12 centimetres (five inches) long 
and eight centimetres (three inches) across at the mouth. Sizeable 
fleshy flowers are often necessary to withstand the attentions of 



Orchids (above) There are more 
than 9,000 species of epiphytic 
orchid in the tropics, most of 
which have restricted 
distributions. Many are 
pollinated by a single species of 
insect, or just one sex of a 
species, which makes them 
among the most specialized of 
flowering plants and particularly 
vulnerable to extinction. Orchid 
flowers are complex in structure 
and produce a wide range of 
scents, from sophisticated 
perfumes to carrion stenches. 

Living fossil {left) - Before the 
flowering plants became the 
dominant plant type in the rain 
forest, conifers, cycads and tree 
ferns were common. Another 
plant that was present then, and 
survives to this day, is the 

Gnetum vine. It produces clusters 
of "flowers", resembling upside- 
down catkins. Each flower is 
protected by a petal-like frill of 
bracts. After pollination, the 
bracts of the female flowers grow 
fleshy to attract seed dispersers. 

"Hot" pollination 

To ensure successful pollination. Philodendron bipinnali- 
fidum has evolved one of the most sophisticated pollina- 
tion strategies found in the rain forest. First, it attracts its 
insect pollinators by producing a powerful odour which 
can be detected at great distances; then it persuades the 
insects to stay long enough to complete pollination by 
offering them ideal conditions for mating. Flowering 
takes place over several months, but each day only one or 
two inflorescences open. The inflorescence opens at dusk 
and lasts for 24 hours only. Separate zones of male and 
female flowers are arranged at the base of a poker-like 
spadix, which is surrounded by a cowl-shaped spathe. 
There is also a zone of sterile male flowers which heat up 
the spadix to as much as 17°C (SrF) above the ambient 
temperature, volatizing the pungent odours which sum- 
mon scarab beetles of the species Erioscelis emarginata. 
The fuel that powers this increase in temperature is in the 
form of lipids - fatty or waxy substances that are common 
in animals but unknown elsewhere in the plant world. 

To produce the required amount of heat, P. bipinnatifi- 
dum consumes nearly as much oxygen as a flying 
hummingbird, which even by animal standards is extre- 
mely high. 

Once inside the spathe chamber, the beetles are offered 
food (in the form of the sterile flowers) and a warm, 
odorous place in which to mate. Thus occupied, they 
remain there until pollination is complete. By dusk the 
next evening, the spadix cools down, the spathe closes 
around the pollinated flowers, and the pollen-covered 
beetles fly off to a newly opened, warm, scented inflores- 
cence for another orgy. 


large pollinators, such as bats (as in the case of the balsa tree) or 
birds, although the world's broadest flower is in fact pollinated by 
flies - Rafflesia arnoldii, a parasitic plant endemic to Sumatra, 
has thick leathery flowers a metre (3.3 feet) or more in diameter. 

Brilliant colours are also common in the rain forest, especially 
in flowers pollinated by birds, which for the most part have 
excellent colour vision. 

Other pollinators may be drawn to flowers by strong scents that 
can be detected at some distance in the still, humid air. A great 
many rain forest species are pollinated by moths, for the nights 
are always warm enough for insects to be active. Their nocturnal 
flowers emit intense perfumes, reminiscent of scented soap, and 
are commonly white or pale in coloration, with dissected outlines 
that show up well in the dark. The best-known example is the 
Madagascan orchid Angraecum sesquipedale (see page 147). 

Some plants have equally powerful, unpleasant scents which 
attract carrion beetles or flies. The flowers are often dark 
purplish-brown in colour and mottled, resembling decomposing 
flesh. Aristolochia vines produce elaborate fly traps which smell 
like rotting fish. The flies are taken in by the flower in more ways 
than one; they not only lay eggs on the dummy corpse but also fall 
into the trap where they are detained until the female flowers are 
pollinated and the male flowers have dusted them with pollen. 
The orchid Dracula bella also fools its pollinators. The lip of the 
flower mimics the underside of a fungus and attracts fungus gnats 
which, in the process of laying eggs among the fake gills, carry 
out pollination. 

Although some plants achieve pollination by deception, the 
majority reward their pollinators, some with nectar or pollen 
that may be varied in consistency or chemistry to suit specific 
pollinators. Bat-pollinated flowers usually have sticky, rather 
than runny, nectar that is easier to lick, and high-protein pollen, 
rich in substances that are essential for the growth of wing and 
tail membi,..nes. Many rain forest species produce other 
"designer"' substances. Waterproofing substances such as waxes 
and resins are especially important in the wet tropics. Clusia 
uvilana, a Central American shrub, coats its flowers in wax which 
is collected by Trigona bees for nest-building. Amorphophallus 
variabilis, which grows on the ground in Southeast Asian forests, 
produces special food bodies filled with oil and starch in a bowl- 
shaped infiorescence. The pollinating beetles are engrossed in 
feeding for several days while the female and male flowers 
complete their cycles. Keeping the large clumsy insects immobi- 
lized prevents the flower's vital parts from being damaged by the 
beetles' sharp claws and spines. 

Fragile interdependence 

In many cases, plants and their pollinators and seed dispersers 
have evolved so closely together that the loss of one species spells 
doom for all the others in the chain. For example, more than 20 
species of bird depend on the fruit of the Closta Rican tree 
Casearia corymbosa for several weeks each year when virtually 
no other suitable food is available. However, the tree's seed is 
dispersed only by the Tityra, a small bird whose conspicuous 
silvery plumage and black facial mask makes it highly conspi- 
cuous and easy prey for hawks. Its feeding strategy is therefore 
quite different from that of the other birds. Instead of staying in 
and around the tree, it makes quick dashes and flies off to 
consume the fruit elsewhere, thus depositing the seeds some way 
off. C. corymbosa and Tityra depend on each other;but the decline 
or extinction of either would also have a knock-on effect, 
reducing or eliminating the other birds that feed on the fruit, and 
in turn other plant species -that depend upon the birds as 
dispersers (or pollinators). This feature of the rain forest 
ecosystem makes it especially vulnerable to disturbance and a 
particularly difficult environment in which to assess the full 
consequences of the loss of a single species. 

(Main pic) Wild ginger fruits become brightly coloured when ripe to attract 
animals to disperse the seeds. 



Colour for birds The Sarawak 
mistletoe (Macrosolen sp.) is one 
of more tlian 1.000 species of 
parasitic mistletoes in the 
tropics. Many have a close 
relationship with flowerpeckers. 
small birds of the family 
Dicaeidae. This mistletoe species 
has red flowers to attract the 
birds and petals which are 
sensitive to touch, springing 
open to allow access to the nectar. 


Odour for bats The flowers" of 
the calabash tree (Crescenlia 
cujete) open at night, releasing an 
odour like sweaty cheese which 
attracts bats. Bat-pollinated 
flowers are usually pale or dingy 
in colour, for most bats do not 
use sight to find their food. The 
flowers of both the mistletoe {above 
left) and the calabash grow directly 
from the trunk which gives easier 
access for bats or birds. 

Water everywhere 

It rains in the tropical rain forest as it rains nowhere else on 
earth. Torrential downpours that wash nutrients from leaves, 
that soak bai-k. wood and soil to saturation point, and that drench 
the forest inhabitants and make the air heavy with water vapour. 
The usual distinctions between water and dry land break down in 
this strange world, producing fish that live on the forest floor and 
crabs that live in trees. 

The high humidity of the air inside a rain forest means that 
animals with thin, moist skins are rarely in danger of drying out. 
Invertebrates that are normally found only in water may be seen 
slithering over the vegetation of the lower storeys. They include 
colourful flatworms. and the rather less appealing leeches, which 
lurk among the leaves and attach themselves to passing animals. 
In the leaf debris around epiphytic plants, eai-thworms live out 
their lives hundreds of feet above their normal habitat. 

Humid air also favours frogs, which flourish in the rain forest 
in exuberant variety. Some have become so completely terrestrial 
that they have no need for pools of water at all, not even for 
breeding. Their eggs, laid on leaves or on the forest floor, do not 
dry out as they would in any other habitat. The tadpole never 
emerges from the egg, but develops into a tiny frog inside its coat 
of jelly. 

Pools in the sky 

Other rain forest frogs use the pools of water caught in epiphytic 
plants for rearing their tadpoles. These stores of water, high up in 
the canopy, are an important feature of the rain forests. In the 
Americas, bromeliads are the major water-storing plants, catch- 
ing rainfall within a circle of stout, prickly leaves. Living on open 
branches high up in the canopy, where the humidity is much 
lower, they sometimes suffer drought conditions between rain- 
storms. Their miniature pools help to even out the water supply, 
and may also supply them with extra nutrients (see page 68). A 
variety of animals live in these miniature pools-in-the-sky, 
including the larvae of mosquitos and damseWies. Arrow-poison 
frogs bring their tadpoles to the bromeliad once they have 
hatched, but cannot afford to lay their eggs there for fear of 
predatory insect larvae. Although a microcosm of life, with its 
own complex food webs, the bromeliad pool does not contain 
enough nourishment for the tadpole. So the mother frog returns 
each day to lay an infertile egg which the tadpole consumes. 

On the other side of the world, in the montane forests of New 
Guinea, an unrelated tree frog has been found guarding a mass of 
eggs in the water-storing tubers of a Hydnophytum epiphyte. In 
another intriguing parallel, a crab that breeds in pitcher plants 
has been discovered in Malaysia, and another species that rears 
its brood in a bromeliad was recently found in Jamaica. Like the 
arrow-poison frog, this crab tends its young and brings them food. 

Swimming through the canopy 

The hazy dividing line between land and water becomes yet more 
blurred in the flooded forests of the Amazon Basin, where the 
water level rises by up to 12 metres (40 feet) annually, high 
enough to submerge many trees. Surprisingly, these do not lose 
their leaves. Some of the trees in the flooded forest - the ones that 
are not inundated - actually rely on flsh to disperse their seeds, 
and produce floating fruits that are eaten by fish in huge numbers 
(see page 113). This phenomenon is not confined to the Amazon 
Basin. In Malaysia, too, there are fruit-eating fish, which act as 
seed dispersers, expecially in the rivers that drain the peat- 
swamp forests. 

When the waters fall again from the flooded forest, they leave 
behind freshwater sponges stuck firmly to the trunks of the trees. 
Protected by a tough outer layer, these sponges stay there in a 
state of suspended animation, until the fioodwaters rise again the 
following year. Also left behind is a tiny blood-red catfish, about a 
centimetre (half an inch) long, which lives among the leaf litter. 
Blind and scale-less, it finds its invertebrate prey with the help of 
sensitive whiskers. 






No need for water (left) - 
Eleutherodactylus frogs complete 
their development from egg to 
fully-formed frog on dry land. 
The eggs are usually laid on 
leaves or moss. The tadpole never 
has the chance to swim before it 
metamorphoses into a froglet; 
instead it is confined to wriggling 
inside its transparent egg 
capsule. When the tiny froglet is 
ready to emerge, it uses a small 
egg-tooth to cut its way out 

Attracting females {top) - The 
colour of these male golden toads 
(Bufo periglenes) is believed to 
help the females find them in the 
gloom of the forest. In contrast, 
the female (bottom left of picture) 
is a dull colour. 

Epiphyte frog (above left) - A 
red-and-blue arrow-poison frog 
(Dendrobates pumilio) completes 
its metamorphosis from tadpole 
to frog in an epiphyte pool. 

Hitching a lift (above) - Once 
hatched, the tadpoles of the 
poison dart frog Phyllobates 
lugubris wriggle on to the back 
of the male frog and are carried 
to water, normally in a forest 
stream or bromeliad pool, to 
complete their development. The 
mucus secretion with which they 
are stuck to the back of the male 
dissolves away in water, leaving 
the tadpole to swim free. 


Fruit and seed eaters 

In the rain forest, an opportunity for a canopy tree to grow to its 
full height comes only occasionally. Taking advantage of these 
rare opportunities means producing as much seed as possible, and 
dispersing it well, so that some seeds or seedlings will be in the 
right place at the right time. The vast majority of rain forest 
plants rely on animals to disperse their seeds, wind being of little 
use in the stillness of the forest. Fruits are a bribe that plants offer 
animals in exchange for the advantages of mobility. In the 
simplest transaction, the animal eats the fruit then deposits the 
seed, unharmed, some way off. allowing it to germinate at a 
distance from the parent tree. But things are rarely quite this 
simple because the plant's seed is also nutritious, often more so 
than the fruit. The plant must not only cope with animals which 
feed on the fruit without dispersing it. but also with the "seed 
thieves" which want to eat the seed, and with animals that 
disperse it but inadvertently destroy its ability to germinate, 
usually through the action of their digestive system on the seed. 

One solution to these problems is to produce hundreds of gritty 
little seeds packed into a juicy, easily digested fruit that attracts 
all types of frugivores. The fruit needs almost no chewing or 
crushing, so most of the seeds are swallowed intact, and. with 
luck, survive their passage through the digestive system. This is 
the strategy that figs adopt, and it serves them well, but for the 
seeds to survive they must germinate where there is a fair amount 
of light. Unless they can quickly become self-sufficient they will 
perish, because the food reserves in their tiny seeds are strictly 
limited. Most fig seeds are not so fortunate, but by producing 
millions of seeds each year the figs win through. This means the 
bearing of prodigious amounts of fruit, and figs are the mainstay 
of fruit-eating animals in many rain forests. 

For most rain forest trees, the fig's strategy will not work, and a 
large nutritious seed is essential. Such trees tend to specialize in 
attracting a particular type of fruit eater - one that will disperse 
the seed rather than destroy it. By focusing its efforts on a 
particular fruit eater, the plant can defend the seed against that 
animal's digestive system. Some form of hard seed coat may 
protect the seed when inside the animal, or a cocktail of toxic 
chemicals may be employed. 

Directing the fruit to the chosen disperser involves a carrot- 
and-stick approach, attracting the favoured animals and deter- 
ring the others with chemical or mechanical barriers. Such 
devices have evolved during millions of years of gradual coevolu- 
tion with animals in the forest, but there are too many potential 
enemies for any plant to perfect its defences. Even the most 
powerful poisons are not invincible, and seed eaters such as the 
black colobus monkey (Colobus satanas) of West Africa can 
detoxify a wide range of chemicals that are poisonous to other 
mammals. Fruit bats thrive on doses of strychnine, arsenic and 
cyanide that would be fatal to a human. It is a battle that the 
plants can never hope to win outright, and most species lose a 
large proportion of seeds, but generate enough for a lucky few 
to survive. 

The most useful dispersers are those that fly - the birds and bats 
- because they are more likely to carry the seed some distance 
away. Bird-oriented fruit tends to be brightly coloured, often red. 
and to split open when ripe so that birds can peck out the sweet 
flesh with its attached seeds. Bats are attracted with scents rather 
than colour, because they fly by night. Bananas are typical bat 
fruits, with their dull colours, thick skins, and pungent smell 
when ripe. Musty smells are also attractive to bats, and many of 
their fruits are distinctly unappealing to the human palate. 

Some of the largest canopy trees put out a seed that is too big for 
a fruit-eating bird or bat to disperse. A common strategy is to drop 
these giant seeds to the ground for large animals to pick up. In the 
African rain forests, elephants disperse the seeds of some trees. 
gathering around trees and gorging themselves on the fallen 
fruit. Some Amazonian trees, such as the cannonball tree 


Colourful fruit eater The 

resplendent quetzal (Pharomachus 
mocinno) eats many fruits 
including; those of the wild 
avocado. The hard-shelled stone 
of the avocado fruit passes 
through the bird's gut unharmed, 
to germinate in its droppings. 

Doubly useful - The bill of the 
keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos 
sulfuratus) is useful for reaching 
fruit, but also plays a part in 
displays. The toucans of the New 
World and the hornbills of the 
Old World are an example of 
convergent evolution. 

Intent on its prey (main pic) - Like other fruit bats, the 

Indian fruit bat (Pteropus giganteus) uses mineral salts from 

seawater to supplement its diet of fruit. Fruit bats are found 

mainlv on islands and in coastal areas. 

(Couroupita guianensis), drop their fruit in the same way. But for 
some unknown reason the fruit sits in piles and rots. Perhaps it 
was once dispersed by a large animal that has since become 
extinct, possibly a giant ground sloth or the elephant-like 
mastodon. Where the original dispersers have vanished, some 
strange relationships between trees and dispersers have devel- 
oped (see page 55) in their place. 

The harvest of fruits in lowland rain forests is so rich that a 
hornbill can gather 24,000 fruits on which to feed his mate and 
chick during the breeding season. Specialist birds and bats, 
which eat almost nothing but fruit, flourish in the tropical forests 
as nowhere else in the world. They include the toucans of South 
and Central America, the palm nut vulture (Gypohierax angolen- 
sis), which feeds on oil palm and raffia fruits in the freshwater 
swamp forests of West Africa, and the spectacular pied imperial 
pigeon (Ducula bicolor) of Southeast Asia, also known as the 
nutmeg pigeon because it relishes the fruits of the nutmeg. These 
are swallowed whole, the large seed being voided in the birds' 
droppings. Some species can swallow fruits that are slightly 
larger than their own heads, thanks to highly elastic joints 
linking the upper and lower jaws. The tough outer coat and aril of 
the nutmeg are scraped away from the seed by the pigeons' 
specialized gizzard, which is lined with horny "teeth". 

Most fruit eaters need no such specializations, for fruits are 
generally easy to digest. Short digestive tracts are the norm, and 
some birds extract the nourishment from fruits so rapidly that 
they void the remains in just five minutes. The giant fruit-eating 
bats of Southeast Asia, known as flying foxes, eat a largely liquid 
diet. They crush the fruit like a strainer, retaining the pith, peel 
and seeds, which the bat then spits out. 

The ease with which fruit can be gathered and eaten allows 
plenty of time and energy for other things, such as courtship 
displays. Sexual selection favours such displays, particularly 
among birds, but in most habitats it is countered by the need to 
find food, which sets limits to the time that can be invested in 
display. Tropical fruit eaters such as the birds of paradise, 
bowerbirds, manakins and cotingas know no such restraints and 
have developed displays of unparalleled colour and passion. 

Threats to survival 

Seed dispersers are the key to the survival of the forest. Where 
rain forest has been cleared for pasture land in Amazonia, areas 
with some standing trees (even if these are dead) begin to 
regenerate soon after being abandoned. Those with no trees 
remain grassland, because without a place for birds and bats to 
perch, no seeds are brought in from the forest. In other areas, the 
forest remains but some of its trees may already be doomed to 
extinction because their dispersers are gone. Some isolated rain 
forest remnants in Southeast Asia have lost all their hornbills 
through hunting, and the trees now standing in them may well be 
the last generation. 

Although the fruit crop of the rain forests is abundant, it is not 
evenly spread throughout the year. There is a season of glut and a 
season of relative scarcity. It is those plants that produce fruit in 
the scarce season that are crucial to the survival of the 
specialized fruit eaters. In a great many forests, the figs fulfil this 
role, because they fruit all year round. The strangler figs are 
especially important, but they are badly affected by logging, 
particularly in Southeast Asia. They have the misfortune to 
attach themselves to large trees, such as dipterocarps, which are 
highly attractive to the timber trade. 

Even selective logging, which is generally favoured by conser- 
vationists, can destroy up to 75 percent of the fruit trees, 
primarily strangler figs. Without these, many fruit-loving ani- 
mals must die out, but if mature forest is near by, and the logged 
areas are left to recover, both fruit trees and their animals will 
come back. In Malaysia, it has been shown that after ten years 
without human disturbance a logged rain forest can once again 
sustain a full complement of eight hornbill species. 



Bone crest 


Cracking the nut 

The seedlings of trees that are destined to reach the 
canopy of the rain forest germinate in the gloom of the 
forest floor, but must then play a waiting game, dependent 
for further growth on a break in the canopy above. To get 
to the stage where it has enough leaves to maintain itself 
in this twilight, the seedling needs a generous nutritional 
subsidy from the parent tree, in the form of a large, oil-rich 
seed. Trees like the Brazil nut (BerthoUetia excelsa ) equip 
their offspring with such a seed, but then face the problem 
of warding off hungry seed thieves. Their answer is to 
encase the seed in a rock-like seed-coat to keep out these 
marauders. But in the evolutionary arms race, almost 
every defence is overcome, and animals such as the 
peccaries and agoutis have evolved the means to penetrate 
even the hardest seeds. The peccary crushes hard seeds 
between its large flat molars. In the case of the agouti, the 
long incisor teeth can gnaw away at hard seed cases. Once 
the shell is pierced, the agouti can push its teeth inside and 
lever the remains apart. The teeth are powered by massive 
jaw muscles that are anchored to special crests of bone on 
the back of its skull and tip of its snout. If this formidable 
apparatus were made of solid bone, the agouti's head 
would hang heavily downwards, so parts of the skull are 
honeycombed to lighten the load. 

Ironically, some trees have battled with the agouti for so 
many thousands or millions of years that they are now 
dependent on it to release their seeds from the heavily 
fortified cases. The Brazil nut is one such species and 
another is the leguminous tree, Hymenaea. whose sturdy 
pods firmly imprison the seeds. The agouti gnaws through 
the protective covering around a parcel of seeds, eats some 
of them and then buries the rest. Because it never 
rediscovers all its caches, a reasonable proportion of the 
seeds survive to germinate. The trees that depend on 
agoutis for dispersal tend to produce their seeds all at 
once, which encourages cacheing by the rodents. 


Nectar and pollen eaters 

Nectar is food at its simplest - sugar dissolved in water, providing 
a diet that needs no digestion whatever. Rain forest trees and 
vines exude nectar to tempt animals for pollination (see pages TO- 
TS) or to feed ants at "extra-floral nectaries'" (see page 6T). Pollen 
is a secondary food for many nectar eaters, providing a useful 
supplement of protein and nutrients. Plants whose pollinators 
eat the pollen itself, as well as taking nectar, produce extra pollen 
to compensate for such losses. Because pollination is so difficult 
in the rain forest, nectar and pollen are produced abundantly, 
and pollinators span the range of evolutionary development from 
inception to recent innovations. 

The primitive beginnings of this plant-animal 
relationship are represented by beetles, thought to >s^ 
have been the pollinators of the first flowering plants. ' 
Clumsy and destructive compared to the more advanced 
pollinators, they feed mainly on pollen rather than nectar, 
visiting open, bowl-shaped flowers, and transferring 
some pollen in the process. Beetles are still very 
important pollinators in the tropical rain forest, 
although elsewhere in the world they have yielded their 
place to the more sophisticated nectar-feeding insects - 
bees, wasps, flies, butterflies and moths. But these more modern 
insect pollinators are found in abundance here as well, often 
serving flowers of astonishing complexity, such as the orchids. 
Some of these flowers rely on a single species of pollinator and are 
highly specialized to encourage that pollinator and exclude all 
other nectar eaters. The most extraordinary of these specific 
relationships involves figs and fig wasps, where the tiny wasps act 
out their entire life cycle within the developing fig, the newly 
hatched young leaving to fly directly to a new flg, and thus 
transferring the pollen. 

The most recent recruits to pollination are the birds and bats, 
which can exist only in the tropics where there is a year-round 
supply of flowers. Over many millions of years, plants in a number 
of different families have switched allegiance from insects to 
vertebrates. They pay the price in extra nectar and larger flowers 
but in exchange they get a pollinator that can fly much further to 
seek out another plant of the same species. A few rain forest trees 
are even pollinated by lizards, and some eucalypt species in 
Australia are served by a marsupial mammal, the sugar glider 

As a food, nectar's only serious disadvantage is a lack of 
proteins. Birds and bats solve the problem by eating their fellow 
diners, it being a simple matter for a hummingbird or flower bat to 
collect up the insects at a flower while also taking its nectar. The 
insects themselves may eat pollen, or they may sip at corpses, 
dung or rotting fruit for their protein and mineral supplements. 
Nectar thieves, which take nijctar without transporting any 
pollen, are a major problem that plants have to contend with. As 
with seed thieves (see pages 76 -79) this is not a situation that the 
plant can ever win, but plants gradually evolve defences, which 
may in turn be thwarted, wholly or partly. Successful nectar 
thieves include the flower-piercers and some hummingbirds 
which peck through the base of the flower to get at the nectar, and 
monkeys such as tamarins and capuchins which eat the entire 
flower. On the other hand there are many obvious signs of a 
temporary victory by certain plants. These include flowers that 
are inaccessible to monkeys on the edge of a tree's canopy, and 
- those with their nectar secluded at the end of a long tube, or a 
curved one, making it available only to pollinators with the right 
mouthparts. Chemical defences are less common but a few 
flowers do spike their nectar with poisons. 

Simply collecting the pollen is not enough - for pollination to 
happen, it must also be transferred, so the pollinator must move 
;; from flower to flower. Rather than supplying nectar in a 
:;; continuous stream, some rain forest trees, such as the bat- 
•rpollinated Oroxyhim sp. of Malaysia, dole out their nectar in 
.'.small amounts at each visit, forcing the bat to move on to another 
■nore food. 



Complete diet (left) The 
ithomid butterfly feeds at one 
of the few plants that fortifies 
its nectar with amino acids, 
the building blocks of 
proteins. It is generally insect-' 
pollinated flowers that come ' 
nearest to providing a 
balanced diet in their nectar. 

A perfect fit (main pic) - As 
the bronzj- hermit humming- 
bird (Glaucis aenea) sips nectar 
from a passion flower, the 
flower's anthers brush pollen 
onto the back of its head. The 
close fit between the bird's 
head and the flower's shape is 
the product of coevolution. 

Mating swarms 

Euglossine bees illustrate the complex web of plant- 
animal relationships in the tropical rain forest. These 
small jewel-like bees are some of the most vital pollinators 
in the Amazonian forests. They are the sole pollinators for 
many species of orchid, and important for a huge variety of 
other plants. 

In some species of euglossine bee, the pollinated plant 
acts as a focus for the bees' breeding activities. By 
collecting scented chemicals from the orchid flower, male 
bees generate a cloud of perfume that attracts other males, 
who repeat the process and thus augment the scent. 
Eventually, the fragrance is strong enough' to draw the 
females, and mating takes place. By visiting a number of 
different orchids for their perfume, the male bees carry 
pollen from one to another. 

Female euglossine bees generally feed on nectar from 
completely different plants, and some pollinate the Brazil 
nut tree (Bertholletia excelsa). Attempts to grow Brazil 
nuts in plantations have usually failed because the 
orchids, and thus the bees, were absent. 

Studies of forest fragments in Amazonia have shown 
that several species of euglossine bee will not cross 
cleared areas, even though these may be only 100 metres 
(330 feet) wide. A large island of forest in a cleared area, 
extending to 100 hectares (250 acres), will be depleted of 
several bee species, and a fragment of just one hectare (2.5 

mean that some plants are no longer pollinated, and will 
eventually die out. 

Leaf eaters 

Every square metre (11 square feet) of lowland rain forest carries 
enough leaves to cover up to 11 square metres (118 square feet), 
and each year it produces up to 0.8 kilogrammes (one pound 
twelve ounces) of new foliage. Leaves contain a good mix of 
nutrients, and are a far better source of protein than nectar or 
most fruits. More importantly, leaves are there all the year round. 
Despite these attractions, only about 25 percent of the year's new 
leaf growth goes to leaf eaters, because rain forest trees have 
evolved a highly sophisticated set of defences. 

The main deterrent to a leaf eater is that leaves are difficult to 
digest. Their principal ingredient is cellulose, which makes up 
the plant's cell walls. Some bacteria can digest cellulose, and so 
can a few wood-boring insects and other invertebrates, but most 
animals cannot. For a small leaf eater such as a caterpillar the 
answer is to chew the leaves very thoroughly, breaking open the 
cells to release the nutritious cell contents. The cellulose is then 
excreted unchanged in most species. 

Larger leaf eaters need to get more energy from their food, and 
cannot chew it so finely, so those that eat leaves exclusively must 
break down the cell wall as well. Specialist leaf eaters, such as 
howler monkeys, maintain a colony of suitable bacteria inside 
the gut to do this for them. 

Bacteria take a little time to work their magic on the leaves, 
and progress through the gut is slow. This makes the leaf eaters 
relatively heavy and most are not particularly fast-moving. By 
way of compensation, their food supply is all around them and 
makes no attempt to escape. Not surprisingly, few birds are leaf 
eaters, because heaviness and flight are generally incompatible. 

Overcoming the plant's defences 

Indigestibility is just one line of defence against leaf eaters; other 
defences may be particularly fearsome in tropical rain forests, 
where leaf-eating insects are legion (see page 84). Plants deploy a 
variety of weapons, including prickles, thorns, spines and, above 
all, toxic chemicals. Most heavily defended are the trees of the 

The stinkbird - One of the few 

leaf-eating forest birds is the 
hoatzin {Opisthocomus hoazin) of 
South America. To help with 
digestion, it has bacteria in its 
greatly enlarged oesophagus and 
crop. This is equivalent, for a 
bird, to the stomach fermentation 
of cows, which explains why the 
hoatzin (also known as the 

"stinkbird") smells like cow 
manure. Leaves stay in the 
hoatzin's stomach for almost 2 
days, and the overloaded bird is 
in consequence a very poor flier. 

heath forest, where the infertility of the soil encourages the 
plants to conserve their leaves, and thus their nutrients, as much 
as possible. 

A typical heath forest tree is the Brazilian rubber tree (Hevea 
brasitieiisis). which oozes white milky latex from its trunk, 
branches and leaves if these are punctured. Contact with the air 
turns this liquid to a sticky gum that plays havoc with a leaf- 
eating insect's mouthparts. The latex also contains toxins - yet 
even this double defence can be overcome. Several insect species 
disarm the tree by cutting off the supply of latex to part of a leaf 
before eating it. This is achieved by punching a line of small holes 
in a leaf or by severing the main latex duct. 

Several other rain forest trees use latex for defence, whereas 
others protect their leaves with straightforward toxins, some of 
which are useful to humans as medicinal drugs. But however 
powerful they may be, all have been overcome by one leaf eater or 
another. Leaf-eating insects - which are probably the target of 
most chemical defences - have evolved a battery of powerful 
enzymes to break down specific poisons. This generally limits 
them to certain related groups of plants which are chemically 
similar. From the plant's point of view, the chemical defences do 
not exclude all leaf-eating insects, but they limit the amount of 
damage done. Although the chemical barriers are erected 
primarily against insects, they affect other animals as well. 
Monkeys and other animals with cellulose-digesting bacteria in 
the intestine get help with detoxification from these microorgan- 
isms, so they too are immune to some poisons. 

Having acquired immunity to these poisons, the leaf eater may 
use them as food, or store them in its body as a protection against 
its own enemies. The caterpillars of the huge birdwing butterflies 
of New Guinea feed on poisonous lianas belonging to the genus 
Aristolochia. They store the plant's toxins and pass them on to the 
adult butterfly, whose striking coloration is a warning to 
potential predators of the poisons within. 



Fungus farmers (left) - Leaf- 
cutler ants solve the problem of 
extracting the goodness from 
leaves by enlisting the help of a 
fungus. They first cut up the 
leaves, using their scissor-like 
mandibles, into easily 
transported sections, and carry 
them back to their underground 
nest. The leaves are then chewed 
into a pulp and the spores of a 
particular fungus added. The 
fungus grows on the pulp, 
extracting the nutrients, and the 
ants feed on the fungus. 

Tough diet (above) - The 
proboscis monkey (Nasalis 
larvatus) lives in flooded forests, 
mangroves, and heath forests in 
Borneo, feeding on tough leaves 
and seeds. In its large stomach 
there is an array of bacteria 
which help with the monkey's 
digestion by breaking down the 
cellulose in the leaves and 
detoxifying any plant poisons 
that are present. 

Chewing for sap - Trees make 
sugar in their leaves (see p. 61) 
and send this down to their trunk 
and roots to keep these parts 
alive and growing. The sugars 
travel down the trunk in the form 
of a sweet liquid, known as sap. 
Several mammals in the rain 
forest tap into this food resource, 
notably the South American 
pygmy marmoset {Cebuella 
pygmaea), pictured here, and the 
needle-clawed bush baby 
(Euoticus elegantulus) of Africa. 
For both these species it is the 
main element in the diet, whereas 
other small monkeys and 
prosimians (bush babies, pottos 
and lemurs) eat sap occasionally. 
Pygmy marmosets chew out holes 
from the trunks of trees, and visit 
the trees at intervals to lap up 
the sap that gathers in the holes. 
A family group has a small home 
range within which it taps all the 
suitable trees, moving on to a 
new area of forest about once a 
year when all the trees have been 
exploited to the full. Trees guard 
their trunks and branches as 
jealously as their leaves, and 
many produce clear sticky gum 
to congeal the mouthparts of 
wood-boring insects. Far from 

being deterred by gums, sap- 
feeding mammals generally turn 
this habit to their own advantage 
and feed on the gums as well. 
They are less digestible than sap. 
and gum feeders may be aided in 
breaking down their food by 
bacteria living in the gut. 
Mammals that feed on sap and 
gum have various adaptations. 
Sharp, curved claws allow them 
to cling to tree trunks and move 
vertically up or down them. The 
marmosets have large front 
(incisor) teeth for gouging out 
holes in tree trunks. The enamel 
is thin on the side nearest the 
tongue, and soon wears away, 
leaving a chisel-like tooth which 
is very effective at this task. 


Compared with the plant eaters of the rain forest, the predators 
are far less diverse, at least in terms of numbers of species. Yet 
they are still more varied and numerous than in other types of 
forest. The insect eaters, which have a wealth of invertebrate life 
to feed on, are particularly prevalent: the main invertebrate 
predators are in fact invertebrates themselves. The flesh eaters of 
the forest are notable mainly for their small size, there being too 
few large herbivores to sustain a large carnivore. The exceptions 
are the large cats, such as the jaguars of the New World and the 
forest tigers of the Old World. Confined to the forest floor and 
lower branches, they prey on animals such as deer, tapirs, 
peccaries and other wild forest pigs. 

Insect eaters 

To feed on insects, an animal must first overcome their often 
formidable defences, and rain forest insectivores tend to special- 
ize in the type of prey they capture. The defensive strategies of 
insects fall into four main groups; concealment, camouflage, 
making a rapid escape, or being poisonous, prickly or aggressive. 
A fifth, and more devious, strategy is mimicry, in which a 
palatable species resembles a poisonous one. 

Searching for insects that defend themselves by concealment 
provides a good living for birds such as caciques and oropendolas, 
found in the rain forests of the New World. These all have well- 
developed muscles in the head enabling them to open their bills 
forcibly against external pressure. They use this technique to 
prise apart the leaves of bromeliads and other epiphytes, 
revealing insects within. Saddle-back tamarins may be found in 
the lower storeys of the same forests, exploiting a different group 
of hidden insects, those in tree holes and bark crevices. The 
tamarins" ability to cling on to vertical trunks brings this 
otherwise inaccessible food source within reach. In the forests of 
Asia, spiderhunters use long curved bills (half as long as their 
bodies in some species) to probe branches, flowers smd vegetation 
for insects. 

Double-jointed hawk - The 

crane hawk {Geranospiza 
caerulescens) is a predator of 
swampy forests in Latin America. 
It specializes in extracting prey 
from tree holes and crevices. The 
inter-tarsal or "ankle" joint, 
which in most birds can move in 
only one plane, is far more 
flexible in this hawk. It can allow 
the lower part of the leg to bend 
backwards as well as forwards, so 
the hawk can thoroughly probe 
the inside of tree hollows while 
hanging on to the trunk with its 

other leg. The hawk's legs are 
also unusually long, and its head 
is very narrow, to reach inside 
nooks and crannies. Crane hawks 
prey on tree frogs, smaller birds 
and their nestlings, eggs, lizards 
and larger insects. A very similar 
species, the African harrier hawk 
(Polyboroides typus), takes the 
same type of prey in the forests 
and woodlands of Africa. It is not 
known whether the two are 
related, or have simply developed 
shared attributes through 
following the same way of life. 


Hidden and camouflaged insects are vulnerable the moment 
they move, and many rain forest insectivores rely on disturbing 
such insects to capture them. The large mixed flocks of insectivor- 
ous birds that move through the canopy together (sometimes 
called "bird waves'") do just this, each eating the insects that its 
neighbours" feet have disturbed. Army ants and driver ants (see 
page 86) achieve the same effect on the forest floor. 

Those insects that rely on speed to escape predators may also 
fall victim to birds foraging in the canopy in large flocks. One bird 
of prey, the double-toothed kite (Harpagus bidentatus) of South 
and Central America, specializes in prey of this type, relying on 
troops of squirrel monkeys to drive them out. 

Other predators lie in wait for insects of this type, including the 
forest-dwelling chameleons and the flower mantids. For the 
night-flying insects such as moths, the large numbers of insect- 
eating bats that patrol the rain forest are the greatest threat. 
Some catching their prey above the canopy, others feeding within 
the forest. 

Insects that defend themselves with bites, stings, spines and 
poisons are more difficult to eat, but not impossible. The lorises 
and pottos of the African rain forests specialize in this type of 
prey, and are apparently resistant to their chemical defences. 
Caterpillars covered with irritant hairs can cause an intensely 
itchy rash on human skin, even if brushed only lightly. The 
golden potto (Arctocebus calabarensis), also known as the 
angwantibo, eats such caterpillars, rubbing them between its 
hands first, and afterwards wiping its lips and nose against a 
branch. Studies of captive pottos show that they are not totally 
indifferent to the toxins in their prey, because they will select 
more palatable insects if offered a choice. By adapting to prey 
that does not attempt to escape, the pottos and lorises can afford 
to be slow-moving themselves. 

Chemical deterrents and painful bites are typical of ants and 
termites, whose aggressive defence of their colonies deters most 
predators. The main predators of termites are ants, but the 


Time to get away iabove) 
Some camouflaged insects such 
as this eyed silkmoth (Automeris 
rubrescens) have a second line of 
defence, using startle displays to 
alarm a predator that has 
disturbed them. Such tactics are 
most effective against birds, and 
the display often consists of 
highly realistic eye-like markings 
that are revealed suddenly when 
the insect is discovered. By 
resembling the eyes of a 
predatory civet or snake, the 
moth can startle the prey 
momentarily, giving itself 
enough time to escape. Although 
eye-like markings are not 
exclusive to the rain forest they 
are particularly elaborate here. 

Frog predator (left) - The cat- 
eyed snake (Leptodeira 
septentrionalis) is a highly 
specialized predator whose diet is 
only possible in the rain forest. 
The bulk of its food comes from 
tree frogs and the eggs which 
many species, including the glass 
frogs and leaf-folding frogs. lay 
on the leaves of rain forest trees. 
Although they may try to defend 
their eggs by guarding them or 
by wrapping leaves around them, 
the frogs are no match for this 
canopy predator. 

Blood suckers (above) - Animals 
that drink blood can be classified 
as predators or parasites - they 
lie somewhere between the two. 
Among the largest are the 
vampire bats, the 
Desmodontidae, of which there 
are 3 species found only in the 
American tropics. They do not 
suck blood, but remove a small 
piece of skin and then lap up the 
blood flowing from the wound. 
An anticoagulant in the bat's 
saliva prevents the blood from 
clotting for as long as the bat is 

still feeding. Recent research has 
revealed that when vampire bats 
return to their roosting sites at 
the end of the night they may 
regurgitate blood for close 
companions who have not found 
food. This form of sharing is 
uncommon among mammals. 


colonies contain so much food they also attract larger, specialist 
feeders. In the rain forests of the New World, the tree anteater 
(Tamandua mexicana) and pygmy anteater (Cvc/opes didactylus) 
raid the nests of ants and termites high up in the trees: in the 
African and Asian forests, tree-climbing pangolins exploit the 
same food source. They are equipped to repel the ferocious 
attacks of their prey, with thick fur or bony scales (see page 48). 

Ant and termite nests attract other less specialized predators, 
such as capuchin monkeys which break them open with their 
strong hands. Unlike anteaters, they do not relish the adults, but 
lap up the eggs and larvae. Their thick fur apparently defends 
them from the assaults of the colonies' soldier castes. In 
Southeast Asia, a great many ants and termites are taken by 
woodpeckers, which can peck the nests open with their strong 
beaks, and by game birds, which scratch them out of the soil. 

Nutritionally, insects are rich in protein and minerals, and 
many animals use them to supplement diets of fruit or nectar, 
which are lacking in these components. Nectar-feeding birds 
such as hummingbirds and sunbirds raise their nestlings on 
young insects to promote rapid growth. For some omnivorous 
animals, such as squirrel monkeys, insects are not part of their 
diet all year round but become a source of emergency food in 
times when fruit is scarce. However, a squirrel monkey is too 
large to live entirelj' on insects for more than a few months. It 
requires more energy just to stay alive than a small insectivore 
such as a tamarin. but it cannot catch prey any faster than the 
tamarin. This same principle affects all the large monkeys and 
apes. Above a certain body size they cannot afford the energy 
needed to catch insects, even as a protein supplement, and must 
turn to leaves instead. 

Flesh eaters 

Some of the most successful flesh eaters of the rain forest are the 
hawks and eagles, which can spot prey from a vantage point 

above the forest while on the wing or perched in an emergent tree, 
then swoop down into the canopy to seize the prey in their talons. 
These airborne hunters take a variety of smaller birds and 
mammals, the largest eagles specializing in such prey as mon- 
keys, lemurs and sloths. 

For most other rain forest predators, moving in for the kill is far 
more problematic, and climbing skills are at a premium. Snakes 
do well in the canopy, as do small, agile members of the cat family, 
such as the margay (Felis wiedii) of South America. African and 
Asian forests are home to many civets, linsangs and genets, a 
family of slender, elongated animals with long tails and short 
legs. Such a body shape is ideal for balancing on branches, and 
many are almost entirely carnivorous, taking lizards, rodents and 
frogs, as well as many worms and ants. On Madagascar, where 
there are no big cats, a large predatory species, known as the 
fossa ( Cryptoprocta ferox), has evolved from this group. The size of 
a large, sturdily built terrier, with a foxy face and a very long 
smooth tail, it preys on lemurs, birds, lizards and snakes. 

One of the effects of the constant warmth of the tropical rain 
forest is that there are fewer restrictions on the size of insects and 
other invertebrates. Species have evolved which can grow to 
extraordinary sizes by temperate standards (see page 53). Some of 
these giant invertebrates have turned the tables on the verte- 
brates and include them in their diet. Tropical mantids can grow 
up to 20 centimetres (eight inches) long, and some prey on tree- 
dwelling lizards, young birds, frogs or even small mammals. Some 
of the large mygalomorph spiders of South American forests 
(often called tarantulas) are tree-dwellers which catch finches 
and other small birds, probably while they are sitting on their 
nests. Other spiders in the same group take lizards, frogs and even 
small poisonous snakes, pouncing on the head of the snake and 
delivering a venomous bite. Spiders can only consume liquid 
food, and these large prey items are macerated with the powerful 
mouthparts and sucked dry, a process taking an hour or more. 

Efficient predators - Nomadic 
army ants live by mass-predation. 
flushing insects from the leaf 
litter as they advance through 
the forests, or mounting raids on 
the nests of other ants, termites 
or wasps. At night the worker 
ants form a temporary "nest" by 
surrounding the queen and her 
larvae with their bodies (right). 
This unusual way of life has 
evolved on at least two separate 
occasions, in .\frica (where some 
are known as driver ants) and in 
the American tropics. So 
effective is the ant's feeding 
techique that it leaves the 
undergrowth largely devoid of 
life for several weeks or months, 
and it is this that has forced the 
army ants to become nomadic. 
An added advantage of this 
technique is that it allows the 
ants to overcome quite large 
insects which they would not bt- 
able to tackle individually. Even 
scorpions, small snakes, lizards 
and nestling birds may fall victim 
to the marauding ant column- 
Many birds benefit by picking up 
insects which are fleeing for their 
lives from the advancing ants. 
Other insectivores have 
occasionally been seen following 
army ants, including toads, 
lizards and marmoset monkevs. 



Canopy hunter (above) - The 
green tree python ( Chondro- 
pylhon viridis) from New Guinea 
is a predator of tree frogs and an 
example of convergent evolution 
with the emerald tree boa 
iCorallus caninus) of South 
America. The two look very 
similar: both have prehensile 
tails and both coil themselves 
around a branch when at rest. 
Yet these two snakes are not at 
all closely related. It is only the 
force of natural selection, in 
their shared habitat and way of 
life, that has made them similar. 

Outsized spiders (left) - The 
large, wandering spider 
Cupiennius coccineus preys not 
only on other invertebrates but 
also vertebrates such as tree 
frogs. The warmth of the rain 
forest allows cold-blooded 
invertebrates to exceed their 
usual size. The wandering 
spiders, which are found only in 
the tropics, resemble the wolf 
spiders of temperate regions. 
Like wolf spiders they are hunters. 

Jaguar (above) - The jaguar 
(Panthera onca) feeds on 
monkeys, capybaras, deer, birds 
and lizards, but its preferred prey 
is peccaries, the wild pigs of the 
Americas. Jaguars hunt in rivers 
as well as the forest, taking fish, 
otters and turtles, and after the 
floods recede they may scavenge 
for stranded fish and alligators. 
In Surinam, they even prey on 
sea turtles on their nesting 
beaches. But jaguars do not 
generally leave forested areas, 
and despite the lure of the 
peccary, they do not move back 
into felled areas. Hunting has 
made the jaguar rare. 


Tree travel 

A schoolchild. putting his hand up in class, holds his arm flat 
against the side of his head. It is a movement impossible for most 
mammals, and a reminder that human ancestors once lived in the 
tropical forest. The anatomical arrangement that allows this 
action originally evolved for swinging from branch to branch by 
the arms. The most skilful modern practitioners of this form of 
travel are the gibbons and siamangs. which swing through the 
canopy of Asian rain forests at breathtaking speed. 

These fast-moving apes represent one strategy for travel 
through the forest. It is a high-risk, high-return strategy: falls 
occur and can result in broken bones, but the rewards are trees 
loaded with ripe fruit. By moving rapidly through the canopy, the 
foraging gibbons can locate these scattered resources. In the New 
World, spider monkeys pursue the same strategy, racing through 
the canopy at such speed that an observer on the ground has 
difficulty in keeping pace. Less specialized for swinging, the 
spider monkey jumps, swings or runs along horizontal branches, 
constantly changing its gait. When necessary, it can bring its tail 
into play, winding it tightly around a branch to act as a "fifth 
limb". This prehensile tail proves even more useful during 
feeding, especially among slender, fragile branches, where the 
monkey can use its tail to spread its weight more widely and avoid 
crashing to the forest floor. 

At the other extreme are the sloths, adapted for a sluggish low- 
energy lifestyle, fuelled by a diet of easily found but indigestible 
leaves. Sloths are so thoroughly adapted for hanging upside down 
that no effort is involved, and they remain in position even when 
dead, suspended by long curved claws and decomposing slowly in 
mid-air. Extreme slowness is also seen among the lorises and 
pottos of Africa and Asia. Like the sloth, these creatures rely on 
stealth to evade predators, moving cautiously and freezing at any 
unfamiliar noise or movement. To the frustration of biologists 
who have tried to study them, they can remain motionless for 
hours if alarmed. This strategy only works well in thick cover, 
and lorises and pottos are confined to the luxuriant vegetation of 
the rain forest. 

A third approach to tree travel is to cling to the trunks of trees, 
leaping from one to the next. Substantial force must be generated 
by the hind-legs, and this form of movement is found mainly 
among smaller forest dwellers such as the tarsiers of Southeast 
Asia and the bush babies of Africa. Neither of these groups occurs 
in South America, and here the tiny monkeys known as 
marmosets (see page 83) and tamarins fill the same role. Unlike 
other monkeys they have claws, rather than nails, for clinging to 
the tree trunks. Their strategy fails if the tree trunks are too far 
apart, and they cannot inhabit the tallest forests, but do well in 
swamp forest where there is a thicket of small stems. 

Flying through the forest 

A leaping animal can go further if it can somehow defy gravity 
and fall more slowly. This can be achieved with flaps of skin that 
act like parachutes, enlarging the surface area of the animal so 
that it drifts gently down (see right). Gliding animals include 
flying squirrels, flying lizards, flying snakes, flying frogs and, 
most accomplished of all, the colugo (Cynocephalus variegatus). 
None of these animals truly fly, despite their names. That is left 
to the birds, bats and insects that inhabit the tropical rain forests 
in great numbers and enjoy the benefits of easy travel between its 
different storeys. Only the dense foliage of the canopy presents 
problems, making navigation difficult during flight, especially for 
the bats who rely on a system of echo-location, akin to radar. 
Larger bats find it easier to fly beneath the canopy, and the trees 
that rely on them for pollination or seed dispersal produce their 
fruit and flowers on their trunks. Those bats that do venture 
through the canopy use habitual flight paths to avoid dangerous 
obstacles such as branches obscured by leaves. Likewise, insects 
follow set routes as they fly through the canopy, and many spiders 
take advantage of this predictable behaviour when positioning 
their webs. 

Ungainly glider - The flying 
gecko iPtychozoon kuhli) uses 
two flaps of skin, one each side 
its body, to glide through the 
canopy. These flaps are wrapped 
around its belly until it dives off 
a branch: then air pressure forces 
them open, converting the gecko 
into a rather inefficient glider. 
The gecko also uses its flattened 
tail and webbed feet to control 
its fall. 



The ribbed flyer (above) - In the 
rain forests of Southeast Asia, 
where hilly terrain and tall 
emergent dipterocarp trees make 
gliding especially useful, the 
flying dragon (Draco volans) uses 
a loose membrane of skin 
attached to its extended ribs to 
swoop from tree to tree. Before 
leaping into the air. it extends its 
ribs, forming a stiff "wing" on 
each side of its body. 

Marsupial in flight {top right) - 
The Australian sugar glider 
(Petaurus breviceps) is an 
excellent nocturnal flyer. It has 
large folds of skin between its 
legs which it stretches taut to 
form a furred "parachute". 

Flying frog (right) - The South 
American frog Agalychnis 
spurrelli relies on the webbing 
between its toes to slow its 
descent. It is capable of short 
glides of 12 m (40 ft), and by 
extending or retracting its limbs 
it can steer to the right or left. 

The fifth limb (above) - Some 
agile New World monkeys, like 
this black spider monkey (Ateles 
paniscus), use their prehensile 
tails to help them move quickly 
through the trees. Other slower- 
moving species, such as the 
tamandua anteater and tree 
pangolin (see p. 53). use their 
prehensile tails for stability. 


People of the rain forest 

In the remote rain forests of Borneo, fragments of medieval 
Chinese pottery have been found, and naturalized fruit trees that 
can only have been brought there, perhaps as seeds, by human 
hands. In parts of Amazonia, unusually fertile patches of black 
soil are sometimes discovered. Archaeologists have shown that 
these oases of nutrient-rich soil were created by adding large 
amounts of organic matter for intensive cultivation. These and 
other tantalizing fragments of evidence show that people have 
inhabited the rain forests for many thousands of years, and lived 
in a great variety of ways, only some of which have survived to the 
present day. 

No one knows where most of the rain forest people came from, 
how they colonized the forest, or how they are related to each 
other. Warmth and moisture conspire to break down all organic 
materials with great speed, so ancient remains are rare, even 
where people buried their dead. Many forest tribes had no 
knowledge of metal, and no need of it, since there were ultra-hard 
forest woods that could make just as deadly an arrowhead as any 
iron or steel. But wood, however hard, rots down over the years, 
and so do all the other natural materials that rain forest peoples 
use: the bamboos and rattans, the liana ropes, plant-fibre fishing 
nets and hammocks, the wooden buildings and woven baskets. 
Generations of inhabitants lived and died leaving scarcely a 
footprint on the forest. 

In Amazonia, only pottery, which first appeared about 3,500 
years ago, provides any clues about early inhabitants, and by this 
time people had already been in the region for at least 9,000 years. 
Linguists can trace the lines of migration by looking at relation- 
ships between the languages of present-day tribes, and anthropo- 
logists can compare physical traits and customs; but much of 
what happened in the past remains guesswork. 

The first people to make a living from the rain forest were 
probably hunter-gatherers, who survived by fishing, catching 
game and gathering plant foods such as fruits, nuts and tubers. 
Agriculture may have been brought into the forest by newcomers 
from elsewhere, or developed independently by the original forest 
inhabitants. In Central Africa, it is clear that agriculture was 
introduced from outside as immigrant Bantu tribes moved 
southwards into the rain forests during the Bantu expansion of 
about 2,500 years ago. The impetus for this may have come from 
metal-working: the Bantu had acquired a knowledge of iron- 
smelting through their trade contacts, and this made it easier to 
clear the rain forest for cultivation. Prior to that. Pygmy hunter- 
gatherers were the only human inhabitants of the forest. 

In Malaysia, too, farming methods were probably introduced 
from outside, since most of the present-day agriculturalists 
belong to different racial groups from the hunter-gatherers, being 
taller and fairer-skinned. In Amazonia there may have been an 
influx of agriculturalists about 2,000 years ago, as shown by the 
appearance of a new type of pottery, decorated with bold 
geometric patterns. These newcomers developed semi-permanent 
settlements based on the highly productive vdrzeas, or flooded 
areas, where Whitewater rivers deposit nutrient-rich sediments. 
But these were probably not the first cultivators to live in 
Amazonia, and the distinction between hunter-gatherers and 
agriculturalists is not as clear-cut here as it is in Africa. Many 
tribes are shifting or "slash-and-burn" cultivators, who also 
gather and hunt wild foods. The importance of crops in their diet 
varies greatly. Some are primarily hunter-gatherers who also 
grow a little food, while others are cultivators who supplement 
their diet by hunting or fishing. 

f§ A 

Xingii hunt - The lifestyle of the 
people who live around the Xingii 
River, a tributary of the Amazon, 
has over the past two decades 
been severely disrupted by 
outside interference. 

Undisturbed, they spend only 
about 4 hours a day searching for 
the food they need. 




Human beings are not creatures of the forest. We evolved on the 
open savannas of Africa, where big game was plentiful and the 
hunting easy. Our earliest ancestors did not even hunt, but lived 
the same sort of life as vultures, scavenging on the carcasses of 
large animals that had been killed by predators or simply died a 
natural death. 

On the savanna, about 50 percent of all the new vegetation is 
eaten by the herds of antelope, zebra and other large herbivores. 
By contrast, only 2.5 percent of the new plant growth in a rain 
forest is used in this way. The savanna-type prey of humans is 
very scarce in the forest, and in its place are countless insects, 
birds, reptiles, monkeys, bats and rodents. Not only are these 
forest animals small, but they are elusive and inaccessible in the 
lofty canopy. It took thousands of years for humanity to conquer 
this demanding habitat. 

Partly because there is relatively little game to be had, 
population densities in the forest have never been high. In the 
Zaire Basin, the population density of the Mbuti Pygmies is only 
about one person for every four square kilometres (1.5 square 
miles). An individual band may range over a vast territory in its 
search for food, as much as 1,300 square kilometres (500 square 
miles), but famine is unknown - the forest always provides. 

The diet is not only plentiful but also very varied. Indeed, the 
ability to utilize a wide range of foods is a key to survival. The 
Semang of Malaysia take nuts, berries and other fruit, young 
leaves and shoots, roots and tubers, honey from wild bees, fish, 
birds, rats, squirrels, lizards and occasionally wild pigs, tapirs 
and deer. They eat at least ten different species of wild yams, and 
a wide variety of fruits including the durian, rambutan and 
tampoi. Some foods, however, are taboo, notably leeches, scor- 
pions and spiders. The Amazonian tribes have a similarly varied 
diet: to the Siriono of Bolivia, the only taboo foods are insects. 
For other groups, such as the African Pygmies, fat beetle grubs 
and caterpillars are an important source of protein at certain 
times of the year. 

Honey is important to most of these hunter-gatherers, despite 
the difficulties of collecting it from high in the trees. Many tribes 
use smoke to drive the bees away or stupefy them, before 
approaching the nest. The Baka Pygmies scale the tree using a 
rope harness made of lianas, and a home-made wooden tool that 
resembles a mountaineer's ice-axe, with which the climber can 
hack into the trunk and then pull himself upwards. 

To capture monkeys, hornbills, parrots and other prey high up 
in the canopy, rain forest hunter-gatherers use poisoned arrows 
or darts. It is an ingenious technique which was invented 
independently in different parts of the world. The sources of the 
poisons are many and varied. A wide range of different plants are 
employed, and a few Amazonian tribes use the skin of toxic tree 
frogs. The poisons used are mostly inactive if taken by mouth, so 
the meat is good to eat. The Semang of Malaysia have a special 
weapon for delivering poison - a dart propelled from a blowpipe. 
Only one type of bamboo, Bambusa wrayi. produces the raw 
material for these blowpipes, which call for straight, two-metre 
(six-foot) long sections of stem. Every clump of this bamboo 
species is known, and access strictly limited by those in whose 
territory it lies. 

Living a nomadic existence in small family groups leads to a 
relatively relaxed social order. Most of these hunter-gatherers 
are egalitarian and non-hierarchical. Where there are chiefs - as 
in the Amazonian tribes - they usually have little power to 
command others against their will. A leader must earn the respect 
and cooperation of his group through his own personality and 
competence. Among the Baka Pygmies, there are no chiefs, and 
social harmony is achieved by consent and compromise. At the 
close of each day, after story-telling, joking and gossiping, one of 
the old men or women in the group will invariably deliver a 
formal "advice-speech" to the band, commenting on events, 
suggesting ways in which differences might be settled, and 
reinforcing traditional values and beliefs. 



^ "^^^l 


Adaptations to the forest 

For human beings, hfe in the rain forest requires, above 
all, cultural adaptations. The ability to identify thousands 
of different types of plants and animals, in a biological 
kaleidoscope that expert field biologists find daunting, is 
the secret of success. Forest tribes must remember the 
fruiting cycles of forest plants, recognize hazardous 
insects and reptiles, and be able to hunt elusive prey. 
Social constraints which restrict population growth may 
also have helped develop a sustainable way of life. 

Against the background of these cultural adaptations, 
physical changes are relatively unimportant, but these 
too play a part. Most noticeable is the small stature seen 
among the Pygmies of Africa and the so-called "Negritos" 
of Asia: the Semang of Malaysia, the Onge people of the 
Andaman Islands and the Aeta of the northern Philip- 
pines. These groups almost certainly represent ancient 
forest inhabitants, who have lived in the rain forests for so 
many thousands of years that they have had time to evolve 
physical characteristics suiting them to this environment. 
Among animals, there are many forest species that are 
substantially smaller than their counterparts elsewhere - 
for example, the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liber- 
iensis), the forest elephants of Africa (Loxodonta africana 
cyclotis). and the tiny royal antelope (Neotragus pyg- 
maeus). In dense undergrowth, smaller stature may make 
it easier to move about; and for humans, a light, muscular 
frame is better suited to tree-climbing. These small, 
lightweight peoples are traditionally hunter-gatherers 
although many have now relinquished their old way of 
life. Human populations that have moved into the rain 
forests more recently may show little reduction in size. 
Amazonian tribes are generally smaller than lowland 
Amerindians elsewhere, but the difference is; not great. 

Hunting ileft) - In northern 
Zaire, the Mbenga Pygmies 
obtain a lot of their food by 
hunting; the Bantu- and Sudanic- 
speaking peoples (of whom there 
are many times the number of 
Pygmies) rely on shifting or 
permanent cultivation, and on 
herds of domesticated cows, 
sheep and goats. 

Gathering {above) - 
Unfortunately, bees that sting 
generally produce more honey 
than bees that don't, so to obtain 
such a highly-prized addition to 
the diet many forest peoples use 
smoke to drive away the insects 
before attempting to collect 
the honey. 



The Siriono of northern Bolivia are an intriguing Amazonian 
tribe who can only be described as "nomadic agriculturalists". 
They get most of their food from hunting and gathering, but they 
also clear garden areas in the forest at certain times of the year. 
They plant crops, and then move on, allowing the fruit and 
vegetables they have sown to battle it out with the forest 
vegetation unaided. The Siriono hunting band continues its 
wanderings through the forest, only returning to the garden 
several months later to gather the harvest. Once the crop has 
been harvested, the plot is abandoned and reverts to forest. This is 
shifting cultivation at its very simplest, feasible only where wild 
foods provide the major part of the diet. 

Though few are as dependent on wild foods as the Siriono, all 
rain forest agriculturalists engage in some hunting or fishing, 
and most gather fruit, nuts, honey, fungi and other delicacies 
from the forest. In a sense, shifting agriculture is a logical 
extension of gathering plant-food direct from the forest, in which 
the forest is encouraged to produce more of its useful vegetation 
(together with some crops brought in from elsewhere) in a 
convenient and accessible spot. Indeed, the forest gardens of 
shifting cultivators have a remarkably natural look, often 
mimicking the layered structure of the surrounding forest. This is 
how one anthropologist described such gardens in New Guinea: 
"To enter the gardens is to wade into a green sea. To walk is to 
push through irregular waves of taro and xanthosoma (ferns) and 
to step calf-deep in the cover of sweet potato vines. Overhead, 
bananas and sugar cane provide scattered shade. ..." The range 
of crops grown is staggering. One survey found that the Temuan 
in Malaysia exploit 65 species of fruit tree, both wild and 
cultivated. Shifting cultivators rarely keep domesticated ani- 
mals, relying on wild creatures for their protein. And they are 
essentially nomadic, as hunter-gatherers are, although a few 
tribes manage to stay in the same place for several generations by 
using a succession of plots within a large radius of their village. 
On average, shifting cultivators change their living site after 15 
to 20 years. The Iban of Sarawak, an exceptionally mobile group, 
move by 90-180 kilometres (50-100 miles) each generation, and 
sometimes as much as 460 kilometres (250 miles) in a lifetime. 

For those cultivators who stay in one place, tending permanent 
fields and plantations, there is a greater sense of detachment from 
the forest. Domestic animals are less of a rarity, and the 
cultivated plots are more estranged from forest vegetation. 
Whereas shifting cultivators have a temporary impact on the 
forest, allowing it to revert to its natural state afterwards, settled 
cultivators remove the forest cover permanently and replace it 
with an essentially artificial plant community. But even these 
cultivators rely on the remaining forest for a substantial amount 
of their food, or as a source of income. The Temuan of Malaysia 
are horticulturalists, but they gather rattans from the forest to 
sell or barter. Often, as with the Bantu tribes of Central Africa, 
settled cultivators obtain forest produce though trading relation- 
ships with hunter-gatherers - in this case Pygmies - who receive 
crops or manufactured goods in return. 

Permanent cultivation is only possible in certain rain forest 
areas, where the soil is sufficiently fertile and other conditions 
are favourable. River plains tend to provide such a setting, the 
sediment brought down by the river renewing the fertility of the 
fields each year. In Amazonia, there was formerly a thriving 
Amerindian farming community based on the Amazon's flood 
plains or vdrzeas (see pages 128-129). In West Africa a relatively 
fertile soil allowed the development of thriving agricultural 
economies, such as that of the Asante, based on subsistence 
farming combined with cocoa and other plantation crops. 

In social terms, the agriculturalists live quite different lives 
from the hunter-gatherers. Permanent cultivators, in particular, 
live in larger groups that are far more complex and hierarchical. 
Shifting cultivators are less dominated by chiefs, but are rarely as 
egalitarian and easy-going as the hunter-gatherers. 

The Yanomami use digging sticks to plant seeds. 



Shifting cultivators in Colombia. 

How shifting cultivation works 

Shifting cultivation - also known as "swidden agricul- 
ture" or "slash-and-burn" - is a farming method well- 
suited to the impoverished soils of the rain forest. By 
burning the vegetation, shifting cultivators release nutri- 
ents that are locked up in the plants and enrich the soil 
temporarily, so that crops can be grown. The work on a 
garden plot begins long before that, however. First the site 
must be chosen. Some rain forest tribes select areas with a 
particular type of tree or other vegetation, because they 
know these will have relatively fertile soil. Once the plot 
has been earmarked, the fruits and other useful products 
found there may be harvested, often over a period of 
several months. Large trees may be removed to make 
houses or dug-out canoes. The undergrowth is then 
cleared and the remaining large trees felled. To avoid the 
massive base of the trunk, they are often felled fairly high 
up, by a man standing on a makeshift platform. Such 
stumps may survive burning and sprout again in time, 
which speeds the regeneration of the forest vegetation 
once the plot is abandoned. Some trees are left unfelled, 
either because they are useful or are regarded as sacred. 
After felling, some tribes remove timber to make fences. 
This is common in New Guinea where pigs, both wild and 
domesticated, can destroy crops. 

Next comes the burning of the remaining foliage and 
timber, once it has dried out enough to ignite. Burning 
creates nutrient-rich ash to fertilize the soil, but, just as 
importantly, it eliminates many weeds. After burning, 
planting can take place straight away. Digging over the 
plot is unnecessary, because forest soil is already soft and 
friable, and most shifting cultivators use a simple digging 
stick to make a hole for their seeds. The charred trunks of 
fallen trees may still criss-cross the plot, but the crops are 
simply slotted in between them. They help to keep animals 
off the newly emerging plants and prevent the rain from 
washing away too much of the ash. 

Once the crops are established, weeding has to begin, 
and this is a very time-consuming and arduous process. 
Many shifting cultivators limit the amount of land they 
farm because of the labour of weeding a large area. Weed 
invasion becomes worse with each successive growing 
season, and for many cultivators it is the rising tide of 
weeds that eventually forces them to abandon the garden 
and move on. In areas with very poor soil, such as the terra 
firme forests of Amazonia, declining fertility is more likely 
to spell the end of a particular garden plot. In either case, 
one to three years is the usual lifespan of a garden, and the 
plot will then be left fallow for between eight and 20 years. 
Shifting cultivation yields good crops for a modest input of 
labour, but it needs large areas of forest to support a 
relatively small number of people. 


Atlas of the rain forests 

The degradation and destruction of tropical rain forests is one of 
the most important issues of our time. Throughout the world 
conservationists, foresters, politicians and countless concerned 
citizens are joining forces to find ways of preventing further loss. 
But this international movement has been hampered by a lack of 
reliable data on the location and condition of the remaining 
forests. Sui'prisingly, no organization has ever published more 
than a sketch map to show the global distribution of rain forests. 
The maps on these and the next few pages represent the first 
attempt to bring together into a comprehensive whole the 
scattered information available from around the world. 

On the world map (right) it might seem that plenty of rain 
forest remains. In fact, rain forest covers no more than 8.5 
million square kilometres (3.3 million square miles) or six 
percent of the earth's land surface. This is just over half of what 
was not long ago a forested area of about 14 million square 
kilometres (5.5 million square miles). In 1980. the rate 
deforestation of rain and monsoon forest was around 71,000 
square kilometres (27,000 square miles) a year, about 0.6 percent 
of the remaining area, according to the Food and Agriculture 
Organization (fao). But environmentalist Norman Myers has 
recently completed a study for Friends of the Earth (foe) in which 
he estimates the current rate of loss to be a staggering 142,000 
square kilometres (54,000 square miles) a year. 

It was once thought that rain forest lost in this way was gone 
forever. It is now known that with care and sufficient respite most 
logged forests can be brought back into sustainable production 
for timber and other forest products, and can even provide 
habitats for wildlife. This book therefore takes a slightly more 
optimistic view than that suggested by the figures above and 
includes on the maps some forests degraded - but not destroyed - 
by logging. 

When is a rain forest not a rain forest? 

The lines demarcating rain forest from former rain forest on the 
maps are based on the best information available; but, for a 
number of reasons, these boundaries may not be as clear-cut on 
the ground as the maps would suggest. The relevant convention 
on such boundaries decrees that the canopy of what constitutes a 
genuine rain forest must cover more than 40 percent of the 
ground. Assessing this percentage is not easy, and in any case 
there is by no means universal agreement on the principle. 

In addition to this, the boundary between rain forest and other 
types of tropical forest is equally difficult to judge, particularly in 
view of the fact that disturbance or actual damage by fire can 
cause the rain forests to degrade into these other forest types. For 
example, in Indochina rain forests degrade into drier monsoon 
forests in which annual fires tend gradually to open up the 
canopy, reducing the forest to open woodland with grass beneath. 
Further degradation leaves only scrub and bamboo behind. 

It is not only on the forest edge that deforestation pushes 
relentlessly forward. Deep inside the forest, agriculturalists are 
clearing areas too small to show on the maps, and logging 
companies are exploiting the forest over thousands of square 
kilometres. By the time the first of such damage becomes 
apparent much of the whole of the forest may be degraded. But the 
rain forest does have the potential to recover, given enough time 
to do so. Even in Kalimantan and Sabah, where in 1982-83 
drought followed by massive fires destroyed more than 40,000 
square kilometres (15,500 square miles) of rain forest, reports are 
now emerging of extensive regrowth in the affected areas. 

The vitality and robustness of the rain forests nonetheless 
permit no complacency. In Southeast Asia, the rain forests 
cleared for shifting cultivation are often left fallow for too little 
time for the soil to replenish itself The unrelenting pressure of 
logging, relogging, clearing and burning that is taking place in 
much of Amazonia, West Africa and Asia is pushing the rain 
forests into a downward spiral of degradation from which there is 
little chance of recovery. 





Rain Forest Countries 



Angola * 




Malawi * 



Mauritius ' 


Mozambique * 


Central African Republic 







Sao Tome and Principe 


Cote d'l voire 

Senegal * 


Djibouti * 

Seychelles * 


Equatorial Guinea 

Sierra Leone 


Ethiopia * 

Somalia * 

Myanma (Burma) 



Nepal ^ 

The Gambia " 


Pacific islands'* 



Papua New Guinea 



The Philippines 

Guinea Bissau * 




Zambia * 

Sri Lanka 

Liberia 0' 


Zimbabwe * 60° 

Taiwan * 



* Countries not mapped in this cq^^ 
atlas either because insufficient 
data were available or the areas 
of rain forest were too small to 
justify inclusion. 

* Including Cuba. Jamaica, Haiti. 
Dominican Republic, the Windward 
Islands. Tnnidad & Tobago 

• Various Pacific islands have 
small rain forests, and the Soloman 
Islands and Fiji are mainly forest 


The making of the maps 

The data for the maps comes from three different sources: on-the- 
ground fieldwork, aerial photographs, and satellite images. 
Fieldwork is the traditional way to monitor forests, and it is still 
vital to establish the accuracy of the more remote data obtained 
from aircraft or satellites. 

Aeroplanes equipped with survey cameras have been the basis 
of much of the mapping of the earth's surface. The camera takes 
overlapping photographs, and when viewed in pairs through a 
stereoscope, the terrain is seen in three dimensions and precise 
height and distance measurements can be made. Today this type 
of monitoring is being replaced by satellite monitoring which can 
cover far greater areas in a much shorter period of time. 

In addition to cameras, both aeroplanes and satellites carry 
radar, which builds up images from signals reflected back from 
the earth's surface. The system has the advantage of being usable 
regardless of the weather conditions, and can be used both by day 
and night. 

Data from space 

Observing the earth's weather was one of the first applications of 
space satellites. The earliest weather satellite was launched by 
the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administ- 
ration (noaa) in 1960. Since then a series of earth resources 
satellites, which produce data of higher resolution than the 
earlier meteorological satellites, have been launched. The first of 
these, Landsat 1, was put into orbit in 1972. 

The main instrument carried by all the Landsat satellites is the 
Multispectral Scanner System (Mss), which records the radiation 
reflected back by features on the ground such as water, roads, 
buildings and vegetation. Each of these features reflects slightly 
different wavelengths and can therefore be distinguished on the 
satellite images. On more recent Landsat satellites, a new 
instrument was added, the Thematic Mapper (tm), which has 
greatly improved ground resolution. 

The French satellite. Spot, launched in 1985, can identify 
features as small as 10 metres (.33 feet) in size. In addition, the 
satellite is the first remote-sensing device to possess steerable 
sensors that can be moved laterally until they detect a gap in the 
clouds through which to take a reading. This means that they can 
also collect views of the same patch on the ground from several 
different points in space. By combining these pictures a compo- 
site image can be produced from which it is possible to measure 
both height and distances. 

The data collected by Landsat and Spot satellites are relayed to 
ground stations in the form of electronic signals which are then 
processed into false-colour photographic images similar to those 
of a very high-quality television screen. By means of meteorologi- 
cal satellites that record images twice a day, and Landsat data of 
better quality available from any given area every 18 days, it 
should be possible to record changes in the world's forest cover. 
However, problems with cloud cover, with receiving stations that 
are not continuously in operation, and with the overall cost using 
the equipment means that many of the tropical forest areas have 
been monitored only sparingly and spasmodically. 

The maps in this book have been produced using information 
from all the sources of data mentioned above, from all over the 
world; it has come in a wide variety of scales and projections, and 
it dates from different times. In general, virtually all the 
information comes from published or unpublished reports from 
the past decade (see page 200). But up-to-date information on 
parts of Central Africa, including Congo. Equatorial Guinea, 
Gabon and western Zaire is simply not available. The maps for 
these regions were produced from a number of more general- 
ized sources. 

In a number of cases, national forestry departments have 
provided hand-coloured blueprints of forest cover, often at 
1:1.000.000 or 1:500.000 scale: those of Brunei, Laos and Malaysia 
are notable examples. 

1. The first stage in producing an 
up-to-date map is to locate on an 
existing outline map basic 
information such as relief, rivers 
and roads. The contours and 
outlines are "read" off the 
outline map with the use of an 
electronic pen or digitizer, which 
transmits precise coordinates 
electronically to a computer. 

2. The computer logs the 
coordinates while showing on 
screen the outline of the area 
being mapped. No matter what 
the scale or projection of the 
outline map. the computer can 
assimilate all the information 
and display in a uniform way. 
Several different types of 
information forest type, 
rainfall, humidity, level of soil 
nutrients, and so forth - may be 
added successively from different 
sources to appear all together on 
the completed map. 

3. When all the information 
required has been transferred on 
to the computer a printed copy of 
the map is produced. It is at this 
stage that the cartographer can 
for the first time get an 
impression of how the final map 
will look. Adjustments to the 
colour-coding and types of 
symbols used can be made. It is 
also possible to print the map 
using different projections - the 
manner in which the rounded 
surface of the earth is shown in 
two dimensions - and scales to 
see which will be the most useful. 

4. Careful checking of the 
finished map against all the 
sources from which the map was 
compiled is required to ensure 
that the information is both 
correct and readily 
comprehensible - that the 
information can be interpreted 
not just by scientists and 
geographers but by politicians, 
policy makers, and other 
concerned individuals. 

Amazon from space - At the 

confluence of the Rio Negro, a 
blackwater river, and the brown, 
silt-laden Amazon lies the city of 
Manaus Heft). Deforestation 

around the city is visible along 
with a scattering of clouds. In 
the false-colour image below 
rain forest is shown in red, 
water in blue and silt in black. 

Problems with Monitoring 

Many countries have invested heavily in remote sensing 
in the hope that such technology can solve the problems 
associated with natural resource management and envir- 
onmental protection. Although considerable progress has 
been made in the development of the tools themselves - by 
way of satellites, sensors, data-processing systems and so 
on - much remains to be done to interpret the information 
received in a way that is truly relevant to the issues. 

The low frequency of observation from Landsat satel- 
lites (once every 18 days) in combination with the only too 
common coincidence of cloud, and the smoke from forest 
fires, often results in an inability to collect really useful 
data more than once in every two to four years. In 
addition, Landsat may obtain the data in a seemingly quite 
unsystematic manner either because of the unhelpful 
trajectories of successive orbits or because, for instance, 
there may be too few operational receiving stations within 
range. Massive forest fires that raged through tropical 
forest in Borneo in 1982 and 198.3 went essentially 
undetected and unreported until they were well advanced. 
Moreover, although data from the Advanced Very-High- 
Resolution Radiometer (avhrr) were routinely recorded 
in the Jakarta-Pakayon station at that time, they were not 
analysed - they were not even retained for more than a few 
days - so neither scientists nor officials were alerted to the 
true extent of the conflagration. 

Finally, because of the relatively high resolution and 
limited ground coverage (more than 200 Landsat scans 
would be necessary to cover the Amazon Basin), an 
exhaustive survey using this platform is inevitably diffi- 
cult and expensive to carry out. In many instances, the 
people who really need the satellite images - research 
scientists. Third World governments and environmental 
agencies, for example - simply cannot afford the pictures 
from space. 

In comparison, the data being collected daily from the 
AVHRR carried on the noaa's polar orbiting meteorologi- 
cal satellites generally include a series of images which 
provide at least one cloud-free image of most tropical 
areas during each year's dry season. However, the one- 
kilometre ground resolution of avhrr is suitable for 
identifying only large-scale deforestation. 

There have been a number of attempts to identify 
disturbances within the tropical rain forest using satellite 
images. Deforestation in the southern fringe of the 
Amazon Basin, in the state of Rondonia, has been assessed 
by reviewing a series of time-lapse avhrr data collected 
since 1982. The measurement of deforested areas there 
depended upon the preliminary detection of "disturbance 
areas" in which activities such as road building, mining, 
logging, clearing for agriculture and burning were taking 
place. By using thermal sensing systems, areas of higher 
temperatures could be seen on the satellite images, 
created by the removal of the forest canopy and the 
resultant greater absorption of the sun's heat. The data 
has provided useful information on the rate of defores- 
tation there. 

To date, then, satellite remote sensing cannot comple- 
tely replace conventional mapping and forest classifica- 
tion using aerial photography and fieldwork on the 
ground. The assessment of forest degradation likewise 
still requires careful groundwork. Nevertheless, remote 
sensing could be used much more effectively than is the 
case at present. One particular problem is that govern- 
mental and international remote-sensing agencies around 
the world tend to study rain forests piecemeal. In view of 
the significance of tropical deforestation to all people on 
earth, the time is right for the resources to be made 
available for an international and comprehensive initia- 
tive to map and monitor the rain forests of the world. 


Information about the Caribbean was particularly difficult to 
obtain, especially in view of the considerable uncertainty as to 
the original extent of the rain forests. Useful sources for 
information on the Lesser Antilles comprised a series of data 
atlases prepared by the Eastern Caribbean Natural Area Man- 
agement Programme. For various other parts of the Caribbean 
some admittedly rather dated maps were used as a basis for 
assessing the dimensions of recent alterations in forest cover 
from local correspondents. 

Mapping different types of forest 

The maps in this book show four types of rain forest: lowland, 
mangrove, montane and former rain forest. These categories are 
the result of compilation, simplification and harmonization of a 
wide range of different maps. National maps of vegetation are 
invariably much more complex than those presented here, 
showing a wide range of different types of rain forests. Simplifica- 
tion has its dangers and this section describes as clearly as 
possible the limitations of the maps on the following pages. 

No attempt has been made to distinguish relatively pristine 
from more or less degraded rain forests. As some of the richest 
environments on earth, and being relatively easy of access. 
lowland rain forests are subject to a wide range of impacts, 
described on pages 36-45. Even a heavily logged rain forest, 
however, can quickly develop a closed canopy and it is difficult for 
anyone but an expert to distinguish logged from unlogged forest 
after a few decades. Similarly' while large areas of plantations 
and shifting cultivation have been excluded, the scale of mapping 
does not allow for presentation of all enclaves of agriculture and 
plantations within the main forest blocks. The areas mapped as 
lowland rain forests are therefore mosaics of relatively undis- 
turbed forests mixed with often extensive disturbed forests and 
some, relatively small, patches of cultivation. This applies 

equally well to montane rain forests, but in general these have 
suffered less degradation. The reason is that most montane rain 
forests do not have such valuable timber trees and are less 
accessible to both loggers and agriculturalists. 

The boundary between lowland and montane forests is drawn 
at different altitudes on different maps to make some allowance 
for the so-called "Massenerhebung effect". First recorded in the 
European Alps, this is the phenomenon whereby large mountains 
and the central parts of large ranges are warmer at a given 
altitude than small mountains and outlying spurs. The conse- 
quence of this is that on small or more exposed mountains 
montane forest (described on page 24-25) is found lower down. 
This is why the maps for Madagascar, Australia and Southeast 
Asia show montane forest beginning at altitudes of 910 metres 
(3,000 feet), whereas in West Africa the cut-off point is 1,200 
metres (4,000 feet), in New Guinea it is 1,400 metres (4,500 feet) 
and in South America it is 1,800 metres (6,000 feet). 

Semi-evergreen rain forests grade into seasonal or monsoon 
forests where the climate is highly seasonal, and the majority of 
trees lose their leaves in the dry season. These seasonal forests 
have generally not been included in the maps. They are present 
on all continents and quite extensive in Asia, but they are not 
easily delimited from the thorn forests and more open woodlands 
at their drier limits, and in places they occur as a mosaic with rain 
forests. Where they are naturally found, they have been mapped 
as outside the rain forest, but where they result from degradation 
they are included in former rain forest. 

Assessing the areas of former rain forest contains its own 
difficulties. Botanists have studied climatic data, forest outliers 
and soil types to reach reliable conclusions, but many uncertain- 
ties remain. In the maps of Africa there is a category "Mosaic of 
grassland and former rain forest". In this area it is impossible to 
know precisely where rain forests once grew. 

\. I Lowland Rain Forest 

Lowland rain forests 

These forests are evergreen or 
semi-evergreen, closed-canopy 
rain forests that occur in ever- 
wet climates. Here the rainfall is 
evenly distributed and the dry 
season, if it exists at all, is very 
short and does not cause the 
trees to lose their leaves. This 
atlas deals with tropical rain 
forests, but in northern Myanma 
(Burma), the foothills of the 
Himalaya and the Andes there is 
a gradation of rain forests from 
tropical to temperate, and there 
is necessarily a degree of 
arbitrariness in the cut-off point. 

[^ I Mangrove Forest 

Mangrove forest 

Mangrove is seldom extensive, 
but is common as a narrow 
coastal and estuarine fringe. It is 
often well-mapped, being 
relatively easy to identify from 
aerial photographs. Mangroves 
are particularly important to 
rural communities in providing a 
number of commodities (see 
pages 22-23). Worldwide they are 
being cleared to make way for 
prawn or fish ponds and housing. 
More recently they are being 
clear-felled for paper pulp and 
ravon manufacture. 

^H Montane Rain Forest 

Montane rain forests 

This forest category includes 
lower montane and upper 
montane forests, as well as the 
subalpine formations on the 
highest mountains. In many parts 
of the world montane rain forests 
remain intact, but this is by no 
means always so. The montane 
rain forests of East Africa are 
rich in valuable timbers and have 
been heavily logged. In Papua 
New Guinea montane forests 
have attracted shifting 
cultivators because sweet 
potatoes, a staple crop, grow 
well there. 


Former Rain Forest 

Former rain forest 

The precise extent of former rain 
forests is clearly a matter of 
conjecture. In some areas - Java 
is an example - they were cleared 
thousands of years ago. Former 
lowland and montane rain forests 
as well as former mangrove 
forests are included in this 
category. Where rain forests are 
believed to have degraded into 
seasonal monsoon forests, as in 
mainland Southeast Asia, they 
are also included in this 



State boundaries These are 
shown as a continuous evenly- 
dotted line. 

Physical features - The names 
of major mountain ranges, hills, 
rivers and other physical features 
are given where appropriate. The 
names of some major cities are 
also included. BOMBAY) 

Not rain forest - The grey.'white 
areas on the map denote a wide 
variety of natural and man-made 
habitats that are outside the rain 
forest or former rain forest 
zones. They include areas of 
different types of forest, such as 
deciduous seasonal forests and 
plantation forests, as well as 
woodlands and grasslands - and 
pockets of any of these may 
account for apparently 
anomalous gaps in coloration on 
the map. 

Roads - Only certain major 
trunk routes are shown. 

Relief- Some indication of 
uplands and lowlands is given by 
the differing shades of grey: the 
darker the grey, the steeper the 

Protected areas - There are 
more than 5,400 protected areas 
in the world, almost 2.000 of them 
in tropical countries. To map 
them all would require a 
gazetteer devoted entirely to this 
subject. Accordingly, only those 
protected areas mentioned in the 
text are shown (red hatching) 
and named. Areas that are likely 
to be placed under official 
protection in the future, and that 
are mentioned in the text, are 
indicated by dotted hatching. 

Map within a map - Each map 
features an additional locator 
map showing the region of the 
world in which it is located. 

Central America 

The seven Central American countries south of Mexico - Belize, 
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and 
Panama - although each small in size, contain a unique 
concentration of flora, fauna and people. As a result of their 
location on the land bridge between the vast and very different 
continental ecosystems of North and South America, the relati- 
vely tiny tropical forests in this region are among the richest 
habitats on earth in terms of the number of species they contain. 
Even the smallest of the seven countries. El Salvador, has more 
than 350 bird species. Panama tops the list with 700 - more than 
the whole of North America. The rain forests in southern Mexico 
represent the northernmost extent of this habitat. 

The human population, which has doubled over the last 30 
years, is a mix of many different ethnic groups and, combined 
with an unstable political situation, is placing ever-increasing 
pressure on the rain forests. Before 1950, the lowland and 
submontane forests were virtually intact. This changed very 
rapidly. In 1950 about 60 percent of Central America was covered 
with forest or woodland. By 1970 this was estimated to have fallen 
to 49 percent, and a mere decade later it had shrunk still further to 
41 percent. At the current rate of deforestation, most of the 
remaining forest will be eradicated within the next 20 years, 
leaving only impoverished remnants in reserves and national 
parks. Already E! Salvador has virtually no primary forest left 
and, with the exception of Belize where development pressure 
remains comparatively low, the other countries in the area are 
losing between 500 and 1,000 square kilometres (190 and 390 
square miles) of forest a year. 

In percentage terms, the annual 

rate of loss in much of Central 

America far exceeds that of 

countries such as Brazil and 


Although the forest losses in Central America are small on a 
global scale, they represent an astounding rate of change for the 
countries concerned. Indeed, in percentage terms, the annual 
rate of loss in much of Central America far exceeds that of 
countries such as Brazil and Malaysia, which are generally cited 
as undergoing rapid deforestation. 

Population pressure 

The combined population of Central America (excluding Mexico) 
in 1989 was almost 30 million people, more than double that of 
1960, and it is expected to increase to about 70 million by the year 
2025. Most people throughout the region are of mixed European, 
indigenous Indian, African and West Indian blood: however, all 
the countries (except Belize) are dominated by a Spanish- 
speaking Westernized elite, and large unintegrated indigenous 
populations still exist in many areas. The distribution of the 
population is very uneven. The majority of the people inhabit the 
volcanic montane regions and intermontane valleys, more than 
two-thirds of them living within 65 kilometres (40 miles) or so of 
the Pacific Ocean. 

El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries in 
the world, whereas virtually all of Belize and the eastern lowland 
areas of Honduras and Nicaragua are among the most sparsely 
inhabited areas in the Western hemisphere. Many of the people 
live in poverty and have either no land or not enough to support a 
family. In contrast, a minority of extremely wealthy landowners 
controls most of the productive areas. 

The names of many of the Central American countries are 
synonymous with political and social unrest, poverty and war. In 
spite of this instability, many ambitious improvement pro- 

Mexico - Within the past 35 
years more than half of Mexico's 
rain forest has been lost. Today, 
about 150,000 sq km (58,000 sq 
miles) of forest remains. Mexico's 
population of 87 million people is 
increasing at a rate of about 2 
million people a year. In response 

to this, much of the forest has 
been cleared as part of 
resettlement programmes, cattle 
ranching projects and coffee 
plantations. There is also much 
uncontrolled clearance as 
settlers clear land for themselves. 


I I Lowland Rain Forest Ibelow910niy3.000ft) 
H Montane Rain Forest (above 910m/3,000ft) 
i Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 
Y/\ Protected Area (referred to in text) 

52 million new trees AES 

Thames, an independent power 
producer in the United States, is 
spending US$2 million on 
planting 52 million trees in 
Guatemala to offset the effects of 
carbon dioxide, a "greenhouse 
gas", released from one of its 
coal-fired power stations. 
Through a grant to CARE 
(Cooperative for American Relief 
Everywhere) Inc., the money will 
be used to help 40,000 
smallholders to plant the trees 
over a 10-year period. This is 
intended not only to help reduce 
global warming, but also to 
provide a sustainable yield of 
fuel, food and building materials 
for the local people and to reduce 
soil erosion. 


Roast iguana The green 
iguana {Iguana iguana) tastes 
like chicken and is a traditional 
source of protein throughout the 
neo-tropics. But after years of 
hunting, this reptile is in danger 
of extinction. A project, which 
started in Panama and has now 
moved to Costa Rica, is 
concerned with breeding the 
green iguana and releasing it 
back into the rain forest. Local 
farmers are now keen to learn 
the techniques involved, for 
iguanas yield as much protein 
per hectare as cattle, at about 
half the cost. This project 
encourages them to breed 
iguanas on a sustainable basis, 
without damaging the 



_ How to plant a rain forest - 

Barro Colorado Island, a 
remnant of rain forest isolated 
when the Panama Canal was 
formed, was designated a nature 
reserve in 1923. It is now used as 
a natural laboratory by the 
Smithsonian Tropical Research 
Institute. One of the latest 
projects there is the production 
of an illustrated guide on how to 
grow a tropical rain forest from 
seed. With its help, foresters will 
know how to grow around 700 
species of plants, and be able to 
identify the species in the 
juvenile stages so that they can 
select those that could be 
transplanted to other suitable 
locations. The project will be a 
practical guide to restocking and 
maintaining tropical forests. 

Rain forest reservoir - If water 
supplies to the Honduran capital, 
Tegucigalpa, are to be 
maintained. La Tigra National 
Park and the buffer zone around 
it must be conserved, because 
this area provides more than 40 
percent of the city's water. But 
this supply will dry up if the 
forests are destroyed, for it is the 
vegetation that retains the water, 
acting as a natural reservoir. To 
encourage sustainable use of the 

land, lUCN is overseeing a 
management project that is 
training local people in 
techniques such as agroforestry, 
multiple cropping, crop rotation 
and biological control of pests, 
which in combination will ensure 
that the forests are not 


grammes are under way to increase agricultural productivity, 
increase exports, stimulate industrial growth or provide roads to 
remote areas. Many of these have been undertaken at the expense 
of the forests and other natural resources in the area. The 
projects may solve immediate requirements for extra food, more 
employment and increased revenue, but the consequences of the 
over-exploitation of the forests include soil erosion, sedimen- 
tation of dams and harbours, and water pollution. 

Squandering the timber 

The landless settlers are responsible for much of the forest 
destruction as they try to eke out a living from the soil. Initially, 
logging or government development companies build roads into 
unpopulated areas; this is followed by the arrival of peasant 
farmers who cut down the trees and plant crops in their place. For 
example, in Guatemala the Government built a road into the 
Peten region in the north of the country, and then encouraged the 
farmers that moved there to grow coffee, cardamom, cacao and 
rubber. The timber that is cut to make way for these crops is 
generally burned or left to rot instead of being harvested, 
compounding the waste of potentially valuable resources. In 
Honduras alone, it has been estimated that forests with a 
commercial timber value of US$320 million are squandered 

Butterflies for cash In the 

Shipstern Reserve in Belize 
butterflies are being used to 
provide funds for conservation. 
This reserve is situated in one of 
Central America's most 
important wetlands, and contains 
tropical moist forest, savanna 
and lagoons on the coast near the 
border with Mexico. The main 
objective of the Reserve is to 

show that the sustainable use of 
forest resources can provide 
enough income to support the 
area. Initially, marketing of 
captive-bred butterfly pupae, 
including the zebra longwing 
{Heliconius charilonius). 
malachite (Siproele stelenes) and 
Thoas swallowtail (Papilio Ihoas) 
pictured above, will provide the 
money for further work. 

annually in this way. Much of the forest soil is shallow and of 
limited fertility and this, combined with invasive weeds and 
noxious insects, soon drives the peasants on to clear yet more 
land elsewhere. 

The degraded land is then sold or taken over by speculators and 
cattle ranchers who consolidate the smallholdings into larger 
ones for the exclusive purpose of raising beef cattle. For a few 
years, each hectare (2.5 acres) will support one head of cattle but, 
within five to ten years, this has increased to five to seven 
hectares (12 to 17 acres) per animal. Ultimately the land will be 
left to scrub and secondary growth or, even worse, the infertile, 
denuded soil will be lost through erosion. 

The farming methods used by the rain forest Indians are 
invariably more productive than the pasturalism that is replac- 
ing them. In addition, neglect of the old cultural techniques, such 
as the construction of terraces and contour planting on steep 
slopes, is contributing to the widespread erosion and soil 
degradation throughout Central America. 





- Main bird migration routes from 
North to Central and South America 

The disappearing migrants - 

The destruction of the rain 
forests in Central America may 
well be having a more widespread 
effect than was initially thought. 
The region is used by at least 225 
different species of migratory 
birds from both North and South 
America. In fact, three of the four 
migration routes between the two 
Americas converge on Panama, 
fiyways for land birds, seabirds, 
waders and waterfowl all passing 
over or near the area. A number 
of scientific studies have 
suggested that there is a 
connection between the 
widespread deforestation in 
Central America and the decline 
of certain of the common North 
American migrant species. About 
one-third of the 53 bird species 
that winter in Central America 
have been decreasing in number; 
and many of these are the ones 
that spend their nonbreeding 
season on the Pacific coast of 
Central America. It is this area 

that has suffered the greatest 
forest loss in recent years. Well 
documented examples of the 
decline in bird numbers include 
those of the wood thrush 
(Hyhcichla mustelina), the 
chestnut-sided warbler 
{Dendroica pensylvanica), the 
Tennessee warbler {Vermivora 
peregrina) and the black-throated 
green warbler {Dendroica virens). 
In addition to deforestation, the 
profligate use of pesticides in the 
highland and Pacific coastal 
areas of Central America may 
also be playing a part. A more 
traditional threat to the birds 
comes from the Quiche Indians in 
western Guatemala, who light 
huge bonfires at night to attract, 
trap and kill them for food. But 
this has been going on for a long 
time, and it is more likely to be 
the reduction of the birds' 
wintering habitats through 
deforestation that is the major 
factor in causing their decline. 



Continuous dredging is necessar>- to keep the canal open. 

The Panama Canal: no forest, no canal 

Completed in 1914, the Panama Canal is a masterpiece of 
engineering technology and has for years been one of the 
most important shipping lanes in the world. However, its 
very existence is being threatened by destruction of the 
rain forest on the surrounding hillsides. About 12,000 
ships use the canal annually, and as each passes through 
the series of locks on the waterway, almost 200 million 
litres (53 million US gallons) of water flow out to sea. This 
water is supplied by the heavy rains that fall on the 
mountain ranges surrounding the canal. Although the 
rain does not fall all year round, this does not affect the 
canal as the forest within its watershed acts as a giant 
sponge, soaking up the rainwater and releasing it at a 
steady rate throughout the year. 

In the late 1970s there was, for the first time, a drastic 
drop in water level in the canal. The government of 
Panama had no option but to turn away the largest ships, 
thereby losing income from the canal tolls, which amount 
to US $350 million a year. The reason for this was, without 
doubt, the loss of the forest; settlers are cutting down 
between 30 and 50 square kilometres (11.5 and 19 square 
miles) of forest within the watershed each year. To 
compound the problem, with no tree roots to hold the soil 
in place, the heavy rains wash it away, only to silt up the 
canal. A strict law against logging, forbidding the felling 
of trees more than five years old. was introduced in 
Panama in 1987. but the government has no money to 
enforce its own legislation. So when Panama takes full 
control of the canal in the year 2000 it is likely to inherit a 
waterway open only to the smallest of ships. 

Without trees to protect the soil landslides are common. 


Kuna: organizing to survive 

The Kuna Indians of Panama are the world's first indigenous 
people to have established an internationally recognized forest 
park, to protect their culture and land. As a result, the Kuna Yala 
Reserve has become a cause celebre among environmentalists and 
advocates of indigenous peoples' rights. 

About 30,000 Kuna Indians live in 60 villages on some of the 350 
tiny coral islands off the east coast of Panama. They survive by a 
combination of fishing and subsistence farming along the coast, 
and so have not touched the main part of the forest on the 
mainland. Indeed, farming, hunting and the felling of trees are 
specifically prohibited in a number of spirit sites near the 
villages. The Kuna, unlike many indigenous populations, own 
the land they live on and have done so since the 1930s, when they 
forced the government through a series of armed uprisings to set 
aside the land for them. 

In the 1970s, the construction of a new road at the western end 
of the Kuna reservation began. Although this was initially 
welcomed by the Indians, it became evident that squatters would 
soon move in and take over large tracts of the Indians' land. To 
prevent this happening, advice and financial backing was sought 
by the politically astute Kuna from a number of national and 


] Core Area 

I Agricultural Area 
ui Cultural Area 
I I Buffer Zone 

PEMASKY - The Kuna Wildlands 
Project, or pemasky, which is 
centred around the road from El 
Llano to Carti, is designed to 
protect the western end of the 
Kuna Yala Reserve from settlers, 
who use the road to gain access 
to otherwise inaccessible Kuna 
land. The Project contains four 
categories of protected area: a 
core area in which only tourism 
and scientific research are 
permitted; an area reserved for 
Kuna agriculture: a cultural 
area, which includes the islands 
on which the Kuna live, their 
fisheries and coastal agricultural 


plots; and a restoration area 
(situated just outside the Reserve 
borders) which acts as a buffer 
zone, protecting the Project from 
outside interference. 

international organizations. As a result, the Kuna Wildlands 
Project, known as pemasky, was set up and it may eventually be 
designated a biosphere reserve. 

Kuna in control 

The design, implementation and management of the project is 
firmly in the hands of the Indians. They receive the revenue from 
tourists and the scientists, who have to pay to work or visit the 
area. In addition, each scientist has to be accompanied by a Kuna 
assistant and has to leave a record of his findings with the 
Indians. The project provides funds for the Indians, they benefit 
from the research done there and. perhaps most importantly, the 
forests and the heritage of the Kuna Indians are being conserved. 
The success of pemasky has already made it a model for other 
indigenous groups in Central America. The Embera, who live in 
the adjacent Darien region of Panama, have begun consulting 
with the Kuna to develop a similar plan for their lands. In this 
way, more tropical forests will be preserved to act as an essential 
and sustainable source of food, medicine, fuel and building 
materials for its indigenous human occupants, as well as to 
provide a home for thousands of plants and animals. 

The Kuna Yala Reserve has 

become a cause celebre among 

environmentalists and advocates of 

indigenous peoples' rights. 

Dug-out transport (above) - 
Each morning the Kuna use their 
dug-out canoes to cross the sea 
from the coral islands on which 
they live to the mainland, where 
they carry on a multi-crop 
agricultural system on the coast. 

Molas (right) - Colourful, hand- 
sewn, appliqued molas are a 
common form of traditional dress 
among Kuna women. The dyes 
come mainly from natural 
sources and each mola usually 
takes about 2 months to make. 




The Caribbean 


20 40 60 80 100 

100 150 200 kms 

HI Lowland Rain Forest I below 910m/3.000ft) 
^M Montane Ram Forest (above 910m/3,000ft) 
[;^| Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 
V/yl Protected Area (referred to in text) 


Cuba - In 1812, 90% of Cuba was 
covered with forest: by 1959, this 
had fallen to a mere 14%. The 
situation remained constant 
throughout the 1980s because 
most of the remnants are in the 
mountains. Rain forest probably 
once covered the south of the 
main island, but now only 2 
patches of significance remain on 
the slopes and peaks of Sierra 
Maestra and Sierra de Imias. 
Fragments of montane forest, too 
small to show on the map, still 
persist in the Sierra del 

The islands of the Caribbean, stretching in an arc from Florida to 
Venezuela, are the emergent tops of a chain of ancient volcanoes, 
some of which are still active. The island geography of the 
Caribbean has favoured the evolution of many endemic species: 
Jamaica alone contains four mammal. 26 bird. 27 reptile. 20 
amphibian and at least 900 plant species that are found nowhere 
else in the world. But in common with other oceanic islands, the 
Caribbean islands have special conservation problems. They lack 
the natural buffers that are found in large biological communi- 
ties and hence are more at risk. Island ecosystems, which have 
evolved in relative isolation, are easily upset. 

Before the sixteenth century many of the islands were almost 
totally covered in forest but now. due to the limited land available 
and the high population density, most of the forest has disap- 
peared. Many islands, including Barbados, are now planted in 
sugar cane: others, Dominica in particular, have retained 
substantial areas of forest. Human impact on the forest has been 
particularly heavy in the Greater Antilles, but all the islands are 
losing their forest as it is cleared for agricultural use. 

The Caribbean is prone to hurricanes, earthquakes and 
volcanic activity, which destroy large tracts of forest. In 1979. 
hurricanes David and Frederick killed more than 2.000 people in 
the Dominican Republic and caused damage worth nearly 
US$1,000 million. Severe secondary effects of hurricanes include 
damage to agriculture, which can lead to famine and economic 
disaster for small islands dependent on one or two export crops. 
The hurricane damage is worse in deforested areas because the 
exposed land is susceptible to landslides and floods. 

There is one island where the rain forests are not uprooted by 
hurricanes; instead they are moulded by them. This occurs in the 
mountainous region of Guadeloupe, in the Basse Terre National 
Park. The forest canopy here is merely trimmed by the winds so 
that, from a distance, it resembles a well-cut lawn. 

The Caribbean Conservation Association, the leading non- 
governmental organization in the area, is concerned with all 
aspects of protecting the environment. Backed by member 
governments and international funding bodies, the Association 
has been involved in identifying key watersheds, potential parks, 
protected areas and important habitats for endangered species. It 
is involved, among other things, with environmental education, 
pilot efforts in management of timber and marine resources, and 
in developing appropriate legislation. Income from sustainable 
development of the land and sea, wildlife tourism and harvesting 
of forest products will enable the Caribbean islands to prosper 
without destroying more of their rain forests. 







, No data 

Dominica This island is the 
most mountainous and the most 
forested of any in the Lesser 
Antilles. The 80,000 inhabitants, 
mostly descendants of slaves 
brought from Africa for 
plantation labour, are 
concentrated along the coast, 
leaving nearly three-quarters of 
the island undisturbed and 
covered in forest. However, 
clearance of the forest for 
agricultural land has increased 
in the last 5 10 years, 
particularly as many local 
farmers now have access to 
chainsaws. In addition, in 1979 
Hurricane David caused the most 
severe damage ever reported to 
forests on the island. No part of 
Dominica escaped and it was 
estimated that up to 5 million 
trees were damaged. Hurricanes 
not only uproot trees and tear off 
branches, they also disrupt 
fruiting and flowering cycles, 
which, m turn, affects the 
animals in the area. The rain 
forests will probably take more 
than 50 years to recover fullv. 

Puerto Rica This island 
provides a case study for the 
natural rehabilitation of a 
severely damaged environment. 
In 1508, when Europeans first 
arrived. Puerto Rica was almost, 
completely forested. By 1770. 
only 6% of the island's 8,630 sq 
km (3,330 sq miles) had been 
cleared; but after 1815. when 
the island was first opened to 
international trade, clearing 
began in earnest and did not stop 
until 1903. by which time a mere 
0.4% of the land was still 
forested. With the collapse of the 
sugar cane industry in the 1940s, 
much of the land was abandoned. 
There followed a dramatic 
natural increase in secondary 
forest, so that by 1978 it covered 
32% of the island. 

A source of pride {left ) - The St 
Lucia parrot {Amazona 
versicolor) is found only in 
remnant patches of forest in the 
interior of the island, and is on 
the verge of extinction. Initially 
widespread on St Lucia, the 
population was down to 1,000 
birds by 1950. and further 
declined to 100 by 1977. They 
were hunted for food and the pet 
trade, and their forest habitat 
was destroyed by human activity 
and hurricanes. In 1979, the 
parrot was declared the national 
bird of St Lucia and has since 
become an object of pride. Along 
with the abolition of hunting, the 
establishment of a forest reserve 
and a captive breeding 
programme, this change in 
attitude may ensure the survival 
of this handsome bird. 


L e e vv a r 


Natural destruction {left) - 
Hurricanes are a major cause 
of destruction in the Caribbean, 
and the forests are often badly 
damaged. During a storm, 
forested land is less at risk from 
landslides and flooding because 
the trees protect the soil from the 
full impact of the rain. 

Trinidad and Tobago - A 

recent study sponsored by the 
International Tropical Timber 
Organization (itto) showed that 
almost none of the countries with 
tropical forests managed them on 
a sustainable t^asis. Trinidad and 
Tobago are exceptions to this. 
Trinidad has a long history of 
forest protection, management 
and tree cultivation. As long as 
half a century ago foresters there 


J- ^^ Virgin 
^ Islands 




ST.KITTS- '^^ 










produced a variety of teak that 
was well acclimatized to survive 
outside its native Myanma 
(Burma) and Thailand. The forest 
policy of the government of 
Trinidad and Tobago underscores 
the need for permanent forest 
reserves to preserve water 
supplies, to prevent soil erosion 
and flooding, and to produce 
timber and many other valuable 
forest products. 










The Amazon Basin 

The Amazon Basin contains by far the largest area of tropical 
forest in the world, covering six million square kilometres (2.3 
million square miles) in nine different countries - 60 percent in 
Brazil, and the rest in French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, 
Venezuela, Colombia. Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Biologically, it 
is probably the richest and most diverse region in the world, 
containing about 20 percent of all higher plant species, perhaps 
the same proportion of bird species and around ten percent of the 
world's mammals. Each type of tree may support more than 400 
insect species. Much of the Amazon Basin remains unknown and 
each expedition there seems to discover something new. 

At the heart of this region lies the huge Amazon River, second 
longest in the world, which has at least 1,000 tributaries and holds 
more than one-fifth of the earth's fresh water. It discharges as 
much water into the sea each day as London's Thames does in a 
year. The Amazon is estimated to contain 2,000 species offish, ten 
times the number in European rivers, not to mention numerous 
reptiles and mammals including the Amazonian manatee (Trj'c/jc- 
chus inunguis), the spectacled caiman (.Caiman crocodilus), the 
giant anaconda (Eunectes murinus) and the Pink River dolphin 
(Inia geoffrensis) or boto. In flood, it inundates an area the size of 
England creating a unique habitat, the flooded forest. Higher up 
the Amazon watershed, where the the Amazon's tributaries flood 
for a short time after heavy rains, the flooded forest is called 
udrzea; farther downstream, in the Amazonian lowlands, there is 
the swamp forest, or igapo. which is usually flooded for between 
four and seven months each year. 

The burnings 

The scale of forest destruction has become so great in the 
seasonal and rain forests of Brazil that Brazilians now talk of 
three seasons: the rainy season, the dry season and the queinia- 
das, or burnings. Neither the actual extent nor the rate of 
deforestation in any of the Amazonian countries is known for 
sure. Many figures have been produced but estimates vary 

. . . Brazilians now talk of three 

seasons: the rainy season, the dry 

season and the queimadas, or 


hugely. Most widely quoted are those given by the Food and 
Agriculture Organization (fag), which estimated that 2.5,300 
square kilometres (9,800 square miles) of Brazilian rain forest was 
destroyed each year between 1981 and 1985. However, the latest 
figure produced by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research 
was of a loss of 35,000 square kilometres (13,500 square miles) a 
year in 1987 and 1988. That is equivalent to four square 
kilometres (1.5 square miles) every hour. 

Other recent fao estimates include a loss of 6,000 square 
kilometres (2,300 square miles) a year in Colombia, 3,400 square 
kilometres (1,300 square miles) a year in Ecuador, 2,600 square 
kilometres (1,000 square miles) a year in Peru, while the other 
Amazonian countries are each losing hundreds of square kilo- 
metres of rain forest a year. 

In 1885, Baron de Santa-Anna Nery described Amazonia as 
"the virgin soil which awaits the seed of civilization". Today, 
cattle ranchers, industrialists, and even international money- 
lending organizations sometimes still act as if that is what they 
think is the best prospect for the region. The causes of the 
deforestation are many, although of overriding importance is 
conversion to pasture land for cattle ranching and, secondly, 



20 40 60 80 100 150 

50 100 150 200 kms 

I I Lowland Rain Forest (below 1.800ra/6,000ftl 
J Montane Rain Forest (above l.SOOm/G.OOOftl 


Former Rain Forest 


Palmira - For the past 40 years, 
people have settled on the 
forested slopes above the city of 
Palmira. Much of the forest, 
which is vital for the protection 
of the city's water and 
hydroelectric energy supplies, 
has been converted to pasture, 
with the result that the land is 
becoming severely eroded. Now 
the local power company, is 
helping to replant the area. 

Colombia's Choco - The stretch 
of lowland forest along 
Colombia's coast, known as the 
Choco, is estimated to contain 
8.000-9.000 plant species, one- 
quarter of which are found only 
here. The Choco also has more 
than 100 bird species unique to 
the area. These forests are 
increasingly threatened by 
logging, settlement and 
agricultural development. 




^ ^ 

<? ^ 

Tree of life (left) - The Buriti 
palm {Mauritia flexuosa) is a 
veritable "tree of life" to many 
Amazonian Indians. Its fruit is as 
rich in vitamin C as an orange, 
its pulp oil richer in vitamin A 
than spinach. The Indians use 
starch extracted from the pith to 
make bread, and the fruit, sap 
and inflorescences to make wine. 
They also eat the palm heart. In 
addition, a strong fibre is 
obtained from the young leaves, a 
useful cork-like material is 
extracted from the petioles, and 
the wood is used for building. 

12° — I 








small-scale agricultural settlement. In contrast to the forests of 
Southeast Asia and West Africa, logging has not been of great 
significance in the Amazon Basin. 

Inappropriate land use, often based on poor knowledge of the 
ecology and soils of the region, has caused, and is still causing, 
many problems. Intensive systems of agriculture and exotic crops 
have been used in areas where the soil is unable to support them 
on a long-term basis. Future plans need to be based on a much 
more detailed knowledge of the potential for development, so that 
the land can be used in appropriate ways. But although it is 
slowly being realized that the forests on the poorer soils can be 
harvested sustainably for such commodities as rubber, oils, nuts, 
palm hearts and timber, the deforestation continues. 

Looking further afield 

Destruction of the Amazon rain forest will have an effect far 
beyond the borders of the nine Amazonian countries. Because of 
the huge volume of cloud it generates, the Amazon system is 
believed to play a major role in distributing the sun's heat around 
the globe. In a way that is not yet fully understood, cutting of the 
rain forest also causes less rain to fall in the Amazon Basin itself 
(see page 35). 

It is obviously unreasonable for the developed countries to 
expect Brazil and the other Amazonian countries to leave their 
forests totally untouched, especially since it is the developed 
nations that are demanding the beef, the hardwood, the rubber, 
the cocaine and the oil from the region. Most of the Latin 
American countries have serious economic problems, including 
vast foreign debts - the combined external debt in 1987 of Brazil, 
Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia was more than 
US$2 billion. Their poor people are demanding a better way of life 
and they have little spare money to pay to conserve and study the 
rain forests. The developed countries can therefore help by 
finding ways of financing solutions to the problems. 

Brazil: gaining access to the forest 

The first inhabitants of the Amazonian rain forest, the Amer- 
indians, migrated from the north, across the isthmus of Panama, 
at least 20,000 years ago and reached the Amazon Basin about 
10,000 years later. The size of the Amerindian population at the 
time of the arrival of Europeans in the sixteenth century is de- 
batable; it may have been as high as 15 million or as low as two 
million people. Whatever the initial figure, now only 200,000 
Indians remain: the rest died as a result of the diseases, enslave- 
ment and social disruption brought by the Europeans. More than 
one-third of the tribes present in 1900 have since disappeared. 

The main settlement in the Brazilian Amazon began in the mid- 
1970s when the then president, Emilio Medici, built the Trans- 
amazonia Highway as part of Operation Amazonia. Easily 
forgotten in the current environment-conscious climate is the 
fact that this road was built with the world's approval. Operation 
Amazonia was seen as a way of opening up much needed land for 
poverty-stricken Brazilians, enabling the development of "a land 
without men for men without land". That there were "men 
without land" was not due to huge population growth, nor was it 
because there was insufficient cleared land available for cultiva- 
tion, instead it was, and still is, because 43 percent of Brazil's 
most productive land is owned by one percent of its population. 

Once the Transamazonia Highway was built, the landless 
peasants moved in and cleared as much forest as possible. They 
were given title only to "productive land", and deforestation was 
considered proof that they would be growing crops on the land. 
Once the settlers moved in they generally received no advice on 
what crops to grow or how to grow them. Monocultures were 
encouraged in spite of the fact that they are the most liable to 
attack by disease and pests, and the least likely to be sustainable. 
This was discovered as early as the 1920s when Henry Ford tried 
to plant huge areas of rubber trees. Deprived of shade and 
susceptible to diseases, the trees soon withered and died. 

Altamira {above, right) - In 
early 1989, Altamira became the 
meeting-place for a huge 
gathering of local Indians, 
including the Xicrin woman 
pictured above and the Kayapo 
(right), protesting against plans 
for dams to be built on the Xingu 
River. If the project had gone 
ahead, thousands of square 
kilometres of rain forest would 
have been inundated and the 
lives of many Indians devastated. 
As a result of this meeting, and 
the international protest that 
accompanied it, the Brazilian 
government agreed to drop its 
plans and the World Bank 
withdrew its funding. 



Forest fish (above) - One of the 
most curious features of the 
Amazon is the igapo, or flooded 
swamp forest, which may be 
under as much as 12 m (40 ft) of 
water for up to 11 months of the 
year. Swimming among the trees 
are a profusion offish including 
the piranha (of the family 
Characidae). pictured above, 
many of which live on the seeds 
and fruit falling from the canopy 
above. Another seed-eating fish is 
the tambaqui {Collossoma 
macropomum) which probably 
locates the fruiting trees by 
smell. It then uses its huge 
molars, more like horse's teeth 
than those of a fish, to crush the 
fallen seeds. The fat reserves that 
the tambaqui builds up while the 
trees are in fruit enable it to live 
dviring the season of low water, 
when little food is available. 
Perhaps one of the strangest fish 
in the igapo is the arowana. Up 
to 1 m (3.3 ft) long, with a 
heavily-armed mouth, it looks as 
if it should feed on other fish. In 
fact the most important 
component of its diet is large 
beetles. Many of these are caught 
by the arowana's leaping a metre 
or more out of the water and 
grabbing the beetle off a low- 
hanging branch. The male fish 
cannot feed for a month or so 
each year when guarding its 

offspring, which it does by 
holding them in its mouth. 
Fishermen, collecting for the 
aquarium trade, take advantage 
of this behaviour: on finding a 
male arowana, they kill it by 
decapitation, to prevent it from 
swallowing the youngsters as it 
does when netted. They then 
scoop up the young fish as they 
flee from the dead father. The 
floodplains of the Amazon, with 
their vast numbers offish living 
off the fruits of the forest, offer 
one of the most outstanding 
opportunities to use the tropical 
forest in a rational, productive 
and sustainable way. Forest fish 
could become an important 
source of protein in the future. 

It seems that returning the 

degraded land to rain 

forest will be a long and 

hard task. 

Reclaiming the pastures 

Understanding the mysteries of forest regeneration is the 
aim of a research project that has been set up at 
Paragominas. in the state of Para in northeast Brazil. It 
will try to discover why land cleared of forest for pasture 
often becomes degraded and able to support only shrubs, 
weeds and straggling grasses - the forest rarely regrows. 

There appear to be several constraints on regeneration, 
lack of seeds in the soil being the major problem. 
Researchers found that cleared land contained no tree 
seeds, and that the birds, which act as seed dispersers, do 
not venture far into the grassland. Another problem was 
predation on the seeds or young plants. Many of the seeds 
in an experimental plot were carried off by ants or rodents, 
and the seedlings were destroyed by leaf-cutter ants. In 
addition, the tree seeds appeared unable to adapt to the 
harsher growing conditions of the pasture, where there is 
less moisture in the soil and less protection from the sun. 

The researchers intend to continue the project and try 
to identify those species that have the best chance of 
surviving the pastures. Different tree seedlings will be 
compared for survival, growth and drought tolerance to 
find those that can be best used in reafforestation projects. 
It seems that returning the degraded land to rain forest 
will be a long and hard task. 


The apparent luxuriance of the tropics continues to deceive 
newcomers. Contrary to first impressions, the soils of the Amazon 
Basin have, in general, rather poor agricultural potential. Most 
of the nutrients are tied up in the vegetation, and they are 
destroyed when the trees are cut and burned. Rapidly-growing 
weeds soon invade the cleared land and the great diversity of 
insects, pests and pathogens makes tropical agriculture a 
formidable task. After a couple of years, crops can no longer be 
grown in the cleared areas and the land is usually abandoned or 
converted to pasture. 

The original settlement programme was not successful; it was 
intended to provide land for impoverished migrants from the 
northeast of Brazil but, faced with deteriorating crops, soil 
erosion, disease, and hostility from the local tribes who were 

The causes of deforestation are 

many, though of over-riding 
importance is the conversion to 
pasture land for cattle ranching . . 

deprived of their livelihood, the settlers gave up and left the area. 
They migrated to the Amazon's new cities to try to find work 
there, returning to the urban slums from which they had 
originally tried to escape. 

Regardless of the early failures, the settlement programmes 
and development projects still continue, and many are funded by 
outside agencies. Two of the largest are the Grande Carajas 
Project, seeking to exploit Brazil's mineral deposits near to the 
mouth of the Amazon, and the Polonoroeste Project in the state of 
Rondonia, which is designed to develop the area and relieve 
population pressure in southern Brazil. In addition, there are 
plans to build more huge dams which, while generating valuable 
electricity, will flood large areas of the rain forest and deprive 
even more Indians of their tribal lands. Often the environmental 
limitations to the planned projects are known in advance, but are 
ignored. The projects are designed by governments or businesses 
as short-term solutions to immediate pressures from their 
electorates or investors. 

Brazil: subsidizing deforestation 

The land cleared by the settlers is often bought up by entrepre- 
neurs for cattle ranching. In the past this was encouraged by the 
Brazilian government through large subsidies and tax incen- 
tives. More than USSl billion has been spent in the last decade to 
encourage cattle ranching in the Amazon, but it has brought 
little success and considerable damage to the fragile environ- 
ment, accounting for perhaps as much as 70 percent of the 
deforestation in Brazil. 

Only 12 trees left - One of the 

10 most endangered plants in the 
world, the Rio Palenque 
mahogany iPersea 
theobromifolia). is found in a 
small patch of undisturbed forest 
in western Ecuador. Only one 
dozen mature trees exist, but 
fortunately there are numerous 
young trees sprouting in the 
area, and attempts at raising 
seeds have been successful. The 
Rio Palenque Science Centre, 
situated in the area where the 
mahogany is found, protects a 
fragment of Ecuador's coastal 
forest along with its many 
endemic species. 




The pastures, which initially support one head of cattle per 
hectare (2.5 acres), rapidly lose their fertility so that within six 
years more than three hectares (7.5 acres) are needed to support a 
single animal. Annual meat production on these ranches is as low 
as 50 kilogrammes per hectare (278 pounds per acre), whereas 
north European farms can produce 600 kilogrammes per hectare 
(1.5 tons per acre) within a year, even without the addition of 
artificial fertilizers. 

Both the settlers and cattle ranchers make extensive use of fire 
either to hurn the original forest or to encourage new grass 
growth on the pastures. Frequently out of control, these fires 
contribute to the destruction of thousands more square kilo- 
metres of rain forest. 

Brazil: logging in the future 

The Amazon forests seldom contain a high density of a single tree 
species or species group that could be used to supply large 
quantities of a single type of wood to either the domestic or 
international timber markets. As a result, they were long 

. . . the Amerindians have a vested 

interest in conservation as the 

future of their society depends on 

[it]. . . . There is an Amerindian 

proverb which illustrates this: "The 

gods are mighty, but mightier still is 

the jungle". 

considered of little economic value. However, as the supply of 
timber from other rain forests in Southeast Asia and West Africa 
diminished, Amazonian species have become more in demand. 
Brazil's Amazonian log production increased from 4.5 million 
cubic metres (160 million cubic feet) a year to 19.8 million cubic 
metres (700 cubic feet) a year between 1975 and 1985. 

Since the late 1970s only five species of tree, out of an estimated 
1.500 species, have accounted for 90 percent of Brazil's Amazo- 
nian timber exports. At present, the selective logging used to 
extract these species is verj* wasteful: one tree per hectare (2.5 
acres) is extracted, but as loggers move in with roads and skidders 
they damage or kill more than half of the trees in the area. 
Improvements in logging techniques will have to be developed to 
ensure that the destruction caused in Southeast Asia and West 
Africa is not repeated here. 

The northern edge: Venezuela to French Guiana 

There is comparatively little deforestation occurring in the 
countries north of Brazil. Surinam is one of the least densely 
populated tropical countries in the world, most of its people 
living along the coast. Only about five percent of the 400.000 
inhabitants live in the interior, and they are mainly in villages 
scattered along three major rivers. This leaves most of the forest 
uninhabited and undisturbed. The country also has an excellent 
network of protected areas, including examples of all the major 
ecosystems, and it plans to expand this still further. 

Similarly, in Guyana and French Guiana most of the populace 
is concentrated in the coastal belt, and there is little exploitation 
of the forests. Some selective logging is carried out in Guyana, 
but its impact on the forest is minimal, as is harvesting for 
charcoal and fuelwood. In Venezuela, logging has been occurring 
for decades north of the Orinoco River and there is a significant 
sawmill industry there. The northern forests have also been 
replaced by crops and livestock. However, the great bulk of the 
forest lies to the south of the river and here human impact is still 


Surinam: setting parrot quotas 

Twenty one of Surinam's 30 indigenous parrot species are 
included in a project set up to control the export of some of 
the country's wildlife species. The parrots chosen are still 
abundant in the forests and considered to be pests because 
of the damage they do to crops. 

Having reviewed data on the distribution and status of 
the parrots (including the three species pictured below) 
and consulted with the international scientific commun- 
ity, the Nature Protection Division of the Surinam Forest 
Service (lbb) and the Foundation for Nature Conser- 
vation in Surinam (stinasu) have set export quotas for 
each species. All exporters must belong to the Association 
of Animal Exporters, and they are required to report on 
their trapping activities, stinasu biologists monitor the 
trapping methods used and check that the captured birds 
are looked after correctly. No bird can leave the country 
without an export permit and a veterinary certificate. A 
fee is charged for each shipment and this money covers 
some of the costs of managing the quota system. 

LBB has established a minimum value in US dollars for 
each species exported. The exporter must receive at least 
this sum and in dollars. The foreign currency is paid to 
Surinam's Central Bank, which then pays the exporter in 
local currency. The quotas can be adjusted if new 
information suggests this is necessary but, so far, data 
indicates that exports could be increased with no detri- 
mental effect on the parrot populations. In this way the 
country is obtaining valuable dollars as well as monitor- 
ing the parrot trade and reducing illegal trapping. 



Sakuddei shaman (right) with his brothers 

The death of a medicine man, or 

shaman, has been likened to the 

burning of a unique library: the 

knowledge held in his head is not 

obtainable anywhere else. 

Learning from the shamans 

Among its many treasures, the Amazon rain forest 
harbours a plethora of plants that could make a vital 
contribution to modern agriculture, industry and medi- 
cine. Although it is possible for chemical companies to 
analyze the plants and work out what they might be useful 
for, the quickest way to get to know the different species 
and their uses is to ask the local tribespeople. Sadly, 
though, because more than 90 Amazonian tribes have died 
out this century, much of the knowledge has already been 
lost, and the rest is dying along with the Amerindians. The 
death of a medicine man, or shaman, has been likened to 
the burning of a unique library: the knowledge held in his 
head is not obtainable anywhere else. 

Tropical plants have already provided many of the 
world's crops, and the rain forests are certainly a potential 
source of many more. A possible new, cultivatable species 
is the uvilla (Pourouma cecropiaefolia) from the western 
Amazon. The fruit from this medium-sized tree is eaten 
raw by the local Indians or can be made into a wine. The 
tree is both harvested in the wild and cultivated as a 
"doorstep" crop. Another potentially valuable species is 
the pataua palm (Jessenia bataua). It produces an oil 
almost identical to olive oil in its chemical and physical 
properties, while being 40 percent richer in protein than 

soyabean oil. Forest plants can also be used to introduce 
new genetic material into species that are already being 
used as crops. 

Natural pesticides can be extracted from tropical plants 
that have evolved chemical defences to deter predation by 
herbivores. An example of this is Lonchocarpus. the sap of 
which is commonly used as a fish poison in South America, 
and is the source of much of the world's rotenone, an 
important biodegradable pesticide. Another species that 
might prove useful as a pesticide is a woody vine, guarana 
(Paullinia cupana). found in central Brazil. This contains 
three times as much caffeine as coffee and it appears that 
caffeine can kill or inhibit the growth of many insects. 

In the developed countries, annual sales of drugs 
containing natural plant material is a multi-billion dollar 
business. Many of these plants were "discovered" through 
noting for what purpose the local Indians used them. For 
example, curare, the black resin from a South American 
tree, is used as an arrow poison by the Amerindians, and 
now an alkaloid extracted from it is used as a muscle 
relaxant in surgery. There is undoubtedly a vast store- 
house of potentially useful medicinal plants within the 
forest, and it is the shaman's knowledge that will help the 
developed world to find them. 




% ~— s 

1 X I 

\ Maraca-Roraima 



, \ \ 

\ 1 

•v.^' 'y 

























r-c^ §^V^\manaus 






20 40 60 80 100 150 miles 

50 100 150 200 kms 

1 I Lowland Rain Forest (below l,800ni/6,000ftl 
r~\ Montane Rain Forest (above l,800m/6,000a) 
I Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 

Protected Area (referred to in text) 






US$50 a skin Hunted for its 
highly prized skin, the giant otter 
(Pteronura brasiliensis) is now 
one of the world's rarest otters. 
Its natural inquisitiveness makes 
it an easy target for hunters. 
Simply by imitating the otter's 

territorial snorting call the 
hunter can entice it out into the 
open. In the early 1980s a single 
skin could fetch the equivalent of 
US$50, as much as the hunter 
could expect to make from 10 
days' work elsewhere. 

Monkey tail dusters The 

southern bearded saki 
(Chiropotes salanas) is the most 
endangered primate in Amazonia. 
Its home, the rain forests of 
northeastern Brazil, coincides 
with one of the most densely 
populated and heavily developed 
regions of Brazilian Amazonia. 
More than half of its habitat has 
been clear-felled, and a lot of 
what remains has been 
selectively logged. The saki is 
also hunted for its meat or just 
its tail, which is used as a duster 
or sold to tourists as a souvenir. 



slight. There is a total ban on logging in the state of Bolivar, and 
the Venezuelan Government has decreed that 60 percent of the 
country's forests are to be left undisturbed. 


As in Brazil, cattle ranching, government-sponsored settlement 
projects and shifting cultivation are the main causes of defores- 
tation. In 1988, it was estimated that as much as 6,000 square 
kilometres (2,300 square miles) of forest was being cut each year, 
mainly on the Andean slopes. To the east, Colombia's Amazonian 
forests are still virtually untouched. Colombia has recently 
developed a Forestry Action Plan, the objectives of which are to 
preserve its Andean forests while raising the living standards of 
the poorest groups in the country, and increasing the contribu- 
tion made by the forests to the country's economy. In addition. 
President Virgilio Barco has been active in ensuring that 
Colombia's indigenous Amazonian peoples have control of their 
land. Nearly 200,000 square kilometres (77,200 square miles) of 
the rain forest, about half that in the country, are now under the 
control of the Indians. It is theirs in perpetuity and cannot under 
present law be sold or exchanged. 


Population growth is higher in Ecuador than in any other South 
American country, and this is one of the main causes of 
deforestation there. Most of Ecuador's lowland forests to the 
west of the Andes have been removed in the last 30 years. The first 
road penetrated that area in 1960 and within 12 years the original 
forest was almost completely converted to plantations of cash 
crops, such as oil palm and banana. These lowland forests were 
some of the richest, and are now some of the most threatened, in 
the world. The fao estimates that 3,400 square kilometres (1,300 
square miles) is lost each year. 

To the east of the Andes, in Ecuador's Amazonian forests, oil 
exploration is, both directly and indirectly, the principal cause of 
destruction. Exploration has been allowed in some reserves but, 
more importantly, extensive road building by the oil companies 
has enabled settlers to move in and clear the trees regardless of 
whether they were in protected areas or tribal lands. Pollution 
associated with the oil exploration is also causing problems in 
some of the rivers and streams. The country is very aware of the 
need to conserve its forests; it is one of the four Amazonian 
countries to belong to the International Tropical Timber Organi- 
zation (iTTo), and lucN has been invited to set up its first South 
American office there. Ecuador is also participating in a project 
to raise money for conservation by means of an international debt 
swap, as are Bolivia and other countries outside South America. 


The principal threat to Peru's rain forests is from agricultural 
settlement. Deforestation followed by overgrazing has left many 
of the Andean slopes bare of vegetation and highly susceptible to 
wind and water erosion. As a result, the country's reservoirs and 
irrigation systems are becoming increasingly silted up. In 1981, 
Peru was estimated to have 700,000 square kilometres (265,000 
square miles) of tropical forest left, more than any other South 
American country apart from Brazil. Today, deforestation is 
estimated to average around 2.600 square kilometres (1,000 
square miles) a year, most as a result of the growth in population 
and the consequent need for land, but large areas are also cleared 
to grow cash crops. 

Coca, used in the manufacture of cocaine, is an increasingly 
important crop in Peru; no other crop apart from coffee is planted 
so extensively. For instance, in the Huallaga Valley in the 
eastern Andes between 1,600 and 3,800 square kilometres (620 and 
1,470 square miles) are planted with coca. Its cultivation on steep 
hillsides has led to massive erosion, and the herbicides, including 
Agent Orange, used to control the weeds on the plantations may 
well cause pollution problems in the area. The camps, processing 

Once isolated, small forest frafinients soon degrade 

Islands in the jungle 

In 1979, a unique long-term experiment was set up to study 
the effects of dividing the forest up into small fragments, 
or islands. Such islands are typically formed when cattle 
ranchers clear an area for pasture. Situated in the rain 
forest 105 kilometres (65 miles) north of Manaus in Brazil, 
the proj ect is being run by the World Wide Fund for Nature 
and Brazil's National Institute for Amazon Research. 

First 23 "reserves", varying in size from one hectare to 
100 square kilometres (2.5 acres to 40 square miles), were 
marked out and their flora and fauna studied to obtain a 
"before" picture of the habitat. The forest islands were 
then formed and any changes noted. 

The greatest changes have been recorded in the smaller 
fragments. In one of the one-hectare islands, only 18 of the 
original 39 bird species remained after a year of isolation. 
The red-handed tamarin (Saguinas midas), which was 
abundant in the undisturbed forest, was absent from both 
one- and ten-hectare islands. In addition, some curious 
interrelationships between species have been discovered. 
White-lipped peccaries (Tayassu pecari), a type of pig, 
rapidly disappeared from the smaller reserves. Soon after, 
three frog species could not be found. It turned out that 
they were dependent on the pig's wallows for breeding 
grounds. No peccaries no wallows, and therefore no frogs. 

Effects on the vegetation itself have been quite 
dramatic. Adult trees die faster, weeds invade the edges of 
the forest islands and hot, dry winds reach into the 
interior, blowing over trees and changing the temperature 
and humidity of the forest floor, upsetting the ecosystem. 
All of the vegetation in the one- and ten-hectare plots was 
degraded in this way, while only the core of the 100- 
hectare island remained unaffected. 

A narrow forest "bridge", only 100 metres (110 yards) 
wide, between an island and the undisturbed forest 
considerably increased the number of species that re- 
mained in the island. In the opposite way, a narrow road 
cut through the undisturbed forest acts as an insurmoun- 
table barrier to many species. Much remains to be learned, 
but it is hoped that the project will help in the design and 
management of rain forest reserves. 



So long as only small areas are mined at any one time, reafforestation does not take too long. 

The greening of a bauxite mine 

Just north of the Amazon, at Mineragao Rio Norte on the 
Trombetas River, there is a large opencast bauxite 
(aluminium ore) mine, situated in the middle of what used 
to be completely undisturbed rain forest. To extract the 
ore, 70 hectares (173 acres) of forest are cleared each year. 
But after the bauxite has been removed, the mining 
company is helping the forest to regenerate. 

To clear the land for mining all the trees in the area are 
cut and burned, and 1.5 centimetres (six inches) of topsoil is 
removed and stockpiled for later use. The bauxite is then 
mined, the earth is replaced, levelled, covered with the 
carefully-saved topsoil and reafforestation begins. About 
90 native species and 12 exotic species are used for 
replanting and many others seed themselves naturally. 

Within 18 months there is a lush growth of vegetation over 
the mined area. Of course it takes several decades before 
the area begins to resemble its surroundings. 

If, as the company is requesting, the Brazilian Environ- 
mental Institute declares the mine and its surrounds a 
conservation area, the company will then take official 
responsibility for protecting the forest. Only ten percent 
of the area will be mined and reafforested, the rest will 
remain untouched to provide a seed bank for the regener- 
ating areas. Hunting is already forbidden in the region 
and this is enforced to the extent of sacking staff found 
killing any animals. The company is also supporting an 
environmental education programme that is intended to 
increase local knowledge and concern about the forest. 


Exploring for oil 

In the mid-1960s oil was discovered in the east of Ecuador. 
Already 6,300 square kilometres (2,400 square miles) of 
forest have been exploited, and a further 3,000 square 
kilometres (1,200 square miles) are now being explored for 
more oil. Although, with careful management, funds 
obtained from oil resources can be successfully chan- 
nelled into forest conservation (as has happened in Brunei 
in Southeast Asia). Ecuador has not fared so well. 

Typically, during the exploration stage, a grid of trails 
one kilometre (0.6 mile) apart is constructed, and heli- 
copter landing sites are cleared along these, also at one- 
kilometre intervals. Explosives are then detonated at 100- 
metre (110-yard) intervals to generate sound waves for 
seismic analysis. The exploration itself does very little 
damage, and the affected areas are quickly recolonized by 
the forest on abandonment. Exploratory wells are then 
dug. Two to five hectares (five to twelve acres) of forest are 
completely cleared to make way for each well, and a 
further 10 to 15 hectares (25 to 37 acres) are disturbed to 
make boards for the drilling platforms. Once oil has been 
discovered, unless due caution is exercised by the oil 
company, there is a danger of pollution from waste 
products such as sulphates, cyanides, mercury and con- 
taminated water. 

In Ecuador, the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve had a 
pipeline built through it which led to an invasion of 
settlers, and the Yasuni Wildlife Park is now threatened. 
The designation of the Yasuni Park as a biosphere reserve 
and a world centre for plant diversity appears not to have 
been enough to save it. Oil wells have already been drilled 
within the park and there are plans to build a road through 
it to enable the oil company to lay a pipeline. The resulting 
invasion of settlers will probably spell the end of the 
nomadic Waorani Indians, a tribe that until now has 
avoided all contact with outsiders. 

Oil revenues can be used to protect the rain forest. 

20 40 60 80 100 
I ' — H 4 — ' H — 

50 100 150 200 kms 

1 I Lowland Ram Forest (below 1.800m/6.000ft) 
H Montane Rain Forest I above 1.800m/6.000ft) 

Former Rain Forest 





Harvesting the forest, strip by strip 

Approximately 6,000 people live in the Palcazu Valley in 
Peru, of which around half are Amuesha Indians. 
Although the valley retains about three-quarters of its 
original forest, there has been considerable clearance 
along the rivers. The Palcazu Project has been set up to 
manage the forests to provide the local people with 
economic independence, without destroying their land. 

The management plan divides the lower valley into 
three categories: land that can support some agriculture 
and grazing (35 percent); land that should remain as 
protected forest (18 percent); and forested land that should 
be harvested (47 percent). The Palcazu system involves 
harvesting small strips of forest, 20-30 metres (22-33 
yards) wide and of variable length, in 30- to 40-year 
rotations. Each harvested strip must be at least 200 metres 
(220 yards) from those cleared in previous years and for 
each block of five strips, a section of forest is left 
untouched. In effect these strips mimic the small natural 
clearings that are created when a large tree falls. 

During the harvest, major branches and trunks are 
removed, and small branches and foliage are left behind to 
provide nutrients for the soil. Oxen are used to take the 
wood out of the forest, a method both cheaper and much 
less damaging to the soil than using machinery. The 
harvested wood is sawn into posts and logs or converted to 
charcoal at a small, cooperative-owned sawmill. Potential 
net profits may be as much as US$3,500 per hectare (2.5 
acres). In addition, orchids and other ornamental plants 
can be collected and sold before the forest strip is cleared, 
as can medicinal and edible plants, and fibres for making 
baskets, nets and brushes. 







ORUZElRCr ^^^:::::::zr- — . 

-^^ DOSUL 




;rro dI^ksco 

Rio Vrufi 



Back door into the Amazon 

Japanese banks might pay to 
improve a road that the World 
Bank was dissuaded from funding 
because of the destruction it 
would cause. The planned road 
was to run from the Brazilian 
state of Acre to Lima in Peru. 
Not only would it encourage 
settlers to colonize the area, it 
would also open the western 
Amazon to commerce. Since one 
of Japan's main suppliers of 
timber, Indonesia, has banned 
the export of logs, it appears that 
the Amazon is being viewed as an 
alternative source of supply. 










1- ■ \ 







Lago de\\ 
Poope ) 

1 66° N 



laboratories and landing-strips associated with this industry 
account for further deforestation and pollution. 

The refinement of the coca leaves, first into coca base then into 
coca paste, occurs in Peru. The final processing into white 
cocaine powder is usually carried out in Colombia. This refining 
process involves the use of many different chemicals, such as 
sulphuric acid, acetone, toluene and lime, and vast amounts of 
each of these end up dumped in the watershed of the Huallaga 
Valley. Because it is not possible to keep law and order in the 
areas that are under the control of the drug traffickers, logging, 
hunting and fishing goes on unchecked. 

Perhaps fortunately, there are still few roads to the east of the 
Peruvian Andes. The major means of transport is the extensive 
river system. As a result, logging is not a great threat in Peru and 
it is still difficult for settlers to move in and deforest large areas of 
the country. This might change if the Japanese government funds 
a road from Lima, over the Andes, into Brazil. 


Deforestation in Bolivia is relatively minor, estimated by the fag 
to be proceeding at a rate of 870 square kilometres (335 square 
miles) a year. Shifting cultivation is not a major threat at present 
because the human population of 18.3 million is comparatively 
small for a country the size of Bolivia. But the population is 
growing at a rate of 2.76 percent a year, and Bolivia is one of the 
few South American countries where the growth rate from 1985- 
1990 has remained as high as that for 1965-1970. so it seems likely 
that increasing pressure will be put on Bolivia's forests. 

The lowland moist forests have been subject to little exploit- 
ation as yet. Logging is very restricted, being mostly confined to 
two types of tree. Virola sp. and Cedrela sp., in the seasonally 

. . . the death of Chico Mendes has 

led, finally, to international 

acknowledgment of the harm being 

done by the cattle ranchers and 

development projects. 

flooded forests. However, it has led to the near commercial 
extinction of mahogany {Swietenia macrophylla) in the Santa 
Cruz area. Following the opening of new roads, the department of 
Beni in the north of the country is now being developed for 
industrial timber production, the extraction of mahogany 
increasing sixfold in the ten years between 1977 and 1987. 

Bolivia, along with Brazil. Ecuador and Peru, belongs to the 
ITTO. One of the major aims of this organization is to improve 
forest management for sustainable timber production. A project 
supported by the itto has recently been set up in the Chimanes 
forests in Beni, which aims both to conserve the area and use its 
forests on a sustainable basis. 

Future conservation 

The peoples in many of the Amazonian countries are becoming 
increasingly aware of the need to protect their environment. In 
Brazil, large numbers of pressure groups have been formed to 
convince the government that something must be done. The 
Brazilian rubber tappers are determined that they should be 
allowed to continue to use the forest, and the death of Chico 
Mendes has led, finally, to international acknowledgment of the 
harm being done by the cattle ranchers and development 
projects. The tax incentives for cattle ranchers have been 
stopped, and there is a ban on the export of unworked timber. 
International aid agencies and bodies such as the World Bank are 
now more careful that the money they lend to South American 
countries is not used in a way that is detrimental to the rain forest 
environment and its peoples. 





^^^^^^^^VSii^ 't.:7#in^^^^^^^^l 

Rubber tapping (above, below 
right) - The forests in the 
Brazilian state of Acre are still 
virtually intact, only 4% having 
been lost so far. But the rate of 
deforestation is increasing as 
cattle ranchers move in and clear 
the trees to make way for 
pastures. In conflict with these 
ranchers are the rubber tappers 
who have been in the area since 
the mid-1800s. Some 500.000 
people earn their living from 
collecting the latex from rubber 
trees that grow wild in the forest 
(below right). The rubber tappers 
do not have title to the forests 
they harvest, so they have 
organized a series of cooperatives 
aimed at gaining legal 
guarantees for maintaining their 
right to use the forest. Francisco 
"Chico" Mendes Filho (above), a 
tapper himself, led meetings of 
the National Council of Rubber 
Tappers in its attempts to protect 
the interests of its members. 
Obviously, cattle ranching is not 
compatible with the "extractive 
reserves" that the rubber tappers 
are demanding, and it is this 
state of affairs that led to the 
murder of Chico Mendes. Mendes 
did not set out to save the 
Amazon as such, but to improve 
the lot of the rubber tappers, and 
this meant preventing 
deforestation. He organized non- 
violent protests, forming the 
rubber tappers and their families 
into a human barrier in the way 
of advancing chainsaws. and he 
then attempted to negotiate with 
the loggers to prevent the 
destruction of yet more land. 
Mendes survived 6 attempts on 
his life but in December 1988 he 
was shot and killed as he left his 
house. He has become a hero to 
environmentalists because he 
died trying to show that it is 
possible to earn a living from the 
forest without destroying it. 
Indeed, since his death, a 
scientific study has shown how 

right he was. The income from 
fruits, latex and other forest 
products harvested on a 
sustainable basis can exceed that 
obtained by logging or ranching 
where conditions, including 
accessible markets and local 
demand, are favourable. Even 
more important, just as Mendes 
wanted, it is the local people who 
benefit from the forest used in 
this way, not foreign logging 
companies or rich cattle- 
ranching entrepreneurs. 




Rural slums {ubuit) Brazil's 
Northwest Regional 
Development Project, or 
Polonoroeste. was designed, with 
the assistance of the World Bank, 
to accelerate the economic 
development of the state of 
Rondonia. The centrepiece of the 
programme, the construction of a 
road (BR364) from Cuiaba to 
Porto Velho. was completed in 
September 1984. In the first 3 
months of 1985, 15,000 families 
entered Rondonia. and by July of 
that year 50.000 families were 
awaiting settlement, and many 
more have followed since. On 
arrival, the settlers often build 
temporary shelters beside the 
road. They then cut down the 

tuii_;.t and {^iu\v annual crops on 
the nutrient-poor soil for 2 or 3 
years, before the land is bought 
up by entrepreneurs for cattle 
ranching. It is then converted to 
pasture and within a decade the 
already degraded soil is useless. 
For the settlers, the effect is of 
having moved from urban slums 
to rural slums, but they are still 
better off than many of the local 
Indians: removed from their 
native homes, clashing violently 
with the newcomers and dying 
from introduced diseases, the 
Indians are unable to survive the 
changes. In 1980, 97% of 
Rondonia was forested, now that 
figure is down to 80% and more is 
being cleared every day. 









Jaru: butterfly paradise - In 

197^. if you took a walk through 
the rain forest near Jaru in 
central Rondonia you could 
expect to see at least 300 species 
of butterfly, and on a good day 
you might find more than 425 
species. Lepidopterist Keith 
Brown estimated that in 1 sq km 
(0.3 of a sq mile) there were 
perhaps 1,330 butterfly species, 
which made Jaru the second 
richest area in the world for 
butterflies, after Tambopatu in 
Peru. Since then much of the 
area has been cleared for 
development following the 
building of the BR364 road; but 
there is still time to ensure that 
some of Jaru"s rich butterfly 
fauna is conserved in the 
extensive nature and Amerindian 
reserves of Rondonia. 

Fire! - In 1988. the smoke from 
■^ fires in the west of Brazil grew so 
thick that many airports in 
Brazil had to close down for days 
at a time. About 32.000 sq km 
(12,350 sq miles) of Brazilian 
forest was burned. These huge 
fires released vast amounts of 
carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, 
into the atmosphere, which is 
expected to have a major effect 
on the world's climatic system. 



Most of the Amazonian countries have set up more protected 

|eas, on paper at least. Instead of providing money to exploit and 

ract the wealth of the forest, as has happened previously, the 

Iveloped countries need to ensure that their money is used to 

vestigate the biological and physical basis of the forests' 

'ealth, including research into the pogsibfe-Ǥes of forest plants 

industry, agricultuj:e-and-ffiedierfie. Some a?©^ must be left 

isturbed and tfeis will mean more money is neeae^ to ensure 

-thaTthey"are-ad«)uately protected. 

^^ Another possibility is the development of the land outside the 

rain forest. In Brazil, there are fewer environmental risks and 

many major economic advantages in promoting development in 

the large areas of savanna and scrub (cerrado) in the south of the 

country. Here resources can be used to improve agricultural land 

that is already in production. 

Undoubtedly most knowledgable and skilled in the subsistence 
use of the Amazonian forest are the local inhabitants, the 
Amerindians, and it is they who have often suffered from the 
development of the Amazon. Unlike the settlers, the Amerindians 
are not exploiting the natural resources on a short-term, high- 
profit basis. They have a vested interest in conservation because 
the future of their society depends on the survival of the forests. 
There is an Amerii dian proverb that illustrates this: "The gods 
are mighty, but mightier still is the jungle". The people's interests 
must be considered to have high priority in the Amazon Basin, 
and working with them, rather than against them, will surely 
help outsiders, whether scientists or settlers, in understanding 
some of the complexities of the forest. 


20 40 60 80 100 150 

50 100 150 200 kins 

□ Lowland Ram Forest 
(below 1.800m/6.000ft) 

■ Montane Rain Forest 
I above 1,800 m /6.000ft I 

Former Rain Forest 



The native people of the Amazon Basin 

A Portuguese expedition to the Amazon Basin in 1637 reported 
the Indians to be "so numberless that if a dart were to fall from the 
air, it would strike the head of an Indian and not fall on the 
ground." The report referred to the Amazonian floodplain, in the 
regions known as vdrzeas (see pages 20-21), where the fertile soil 
then supported a thriving population of agriculturalists. Perma- 
nent settlements lined the riverbanks, and these were divided 
into provinces, ruled by all-powerful chieftains. Following the 
development of a variety of manioc (cassava) that matured in six 
months rather than the usual twelve, the vdrzea inhabitants grew 
all the food they needed during the nine months of low water. 
Food was stored for the three months of the year when the vdrzea 
was inundated. 

A century after the expedition of 1637, the tribes of the vdrzeas 
had gone. Many had been taken as slaves by the European 
invaders. Many more died during epidemics of influenza and 
other new diseases, to which the Amerindians had little resis- 
tance. A thriving, well organized civilization had been wiped out 
in just a hundred years. 

Much the same sequence of events has been acted out over the 
whole of Amazonia, albeit more slowly, and the final stages of this 
tragic annihilation seem now to be taking place. The inhabitants 
of the terra firme forests, more dispersed and less accessible than 
those of the floodplain. have survived in significant numbers, 
although their persecution has been relentless, and many tribes 
have disappeared altogether. Those still living in the forest are 
generally in remote locations. The survivors also tend to be the 
more ferocious tribes, whose intrinsic suspicion of outsiders, and 
aggressive behaviour towards anyone entering their territory, 
has protected them. Considering the way in which the outside 
world has treated the indigenous people of Amazonia - many of 
whom treated the newcomers with generous hospitality - such an 
attitude is entirely justified. 

The catalogue of persecution and injustice that has afflicted 
these people is almost endless. At one time, diseases such as 
smallpox were deliberately introduced, impregnated into blan- 
kets. During the rubber boom of 1840-1912, whole tribes were 

enslaved by rubber producers in an iniquitous system of debt 
bondage. People of European descent have long regarded the 
Indians as "animals" and have shot them for no reason - 
something that still occurs today. Their lands have been seized 
and large populations massacred or shifted to other, less suitable 
areas of the forest. 

In the past 20 years, the pressure on the native people of 
Amazonia has increased enormously, as modern technology, 
compelled by new political drives for expansion, opens up the 
remaining areas of rain forest to development. As in the past, 
previously isolated populations succumb to epidemics of Euro- 
pean diseases. Conflicts with gold miners and cattle ranchers 
have resulted in many more deaths, and the poisoning of streams 
with mercury (used to separate out the gold) has caused illness 
among groups such as the Kayapo. The building of roads and 
dams still displaces large populations, and the relentless burning 
and bulldozing of the forest destroys the very basis of many of the 
Amazonian tribes' existence. 

Missionaries, principally Roman Catholic, have been in Ama- 
zonia for centuries, and in the past have had both good and bad 
effects, with the benefits probably outweighing the drawbacks. 
Today, a new breed of fundamentalist zealots, with an uncom- 
promising approach to conversion, and an apparent lack of 
concern for the earthly fate of the Amerindians, is operating in 
Amazonia to the physical and cultural detriment of a great 
number of ethnic communities. 

Against this background, there are some glimmers of hope. The 
native people of Amazonia have found a new self-confidence and 
pride in their Amerindian identity. They have established bonds 
of solidarity and cooperation between different villages and 
tribes, where previously there was mutual hostility. Some are 
learning Portuguese and international awareness of the 
problems they face has given them greater strength and increased 
their political power. 

Whether this new awareness can lead to the survival of the 
Amerindians, and that of their forests, remains to be seen. The 
forces ranged against them are many, and time is running out. 

Body decoration (left, above) - 
The designs used by the members 
of this tribe of Amerindians 
living near the Xingii River in 
the Amazon Basin follow an 
unbroken cultural tradition 
of centuries. 



A Yanomami headman (.right) lives communally with other members of his tribe in a large palm-thatched hut or skabon. 

The Yanomami 

More than 20,000 Yanomami (or Yanomamo) still live in 
the highland rain forests around the border between 
Brazil and Venezuela. They are the largest Amerindian 
group in Amazonia that is still following a traditional 
lifestyle, although this has been modified by contacts with 
outside. Like most Amazonian tribes, the Yanomami 
combine shifting cultivation (see page 93) with hunting 
and the gathering of forest foods. They are unusual in 
using the plantain (a starchy type of banana) as their 
staple crop - it supplies about 70 percent of their food. 
There are many Yanomami dialects, but they preserve a 
traditional form of language for ceremonial use, and this 
can be understood by all Yanomami. The Yanomami's 
territory covers about 40,000 square kilometres (15,400 
square miles). In the past, warfare between different 
villages was common especially in the central part of the 
territory. Here villages were highly fortified, while on the 
outer edges there was less tension and a village could 
always decide to move outwards into virgin territory if 

threatened by aggressors. Almost all the villages moved 
regularly to escape enemies or form new alliances. 

This state of affairs served to keep the settlements from 
exhausting the soil in any one area and to prevent 
excessive population growth. It also bred a fierce iso- 
lationism in the Yanomami warriors which served them 
well in their contacts with Europeans, and they remained 
relatively untroubled by the outside world until the early 
1970s. Government plans to build Highway BR210 across 
their territory brought road-building gangs and the 
inevitable devastating epidemics. This was followed in 
1985 by an attempt to bring in several thousand miners by 
air, an effort backed by local politicians but finally 
thwarted by the federal government. Incursions by gold 
miners, and new epidemics, continue. United by the 
common threat to their survival, the Yanomami are now 
demanding protection for their lands. These demands 
have so far been ignored by the authorities and the 
Yanomami's future remains uncertain. 


The Atlantic coast of Brazil 





SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation 

An influential group of Brazilian scientists, businessmen 
and journalists joined forces at the end of 1986 to form the 
Fundagao SOS Mata Atlantica (SOS Atlantic Forest 
Foundation). Since then, numerous individuals and org- 
anizations have devoted their time and money to trying 
to save the last vestiges of the Atlantic forests. The 
nation's media have provided widespread coverage of the 
movement, including a three-week television campaign 
in December 1987. A Brazilian advertising agency, DPZ. 
gave its services free and has developed a logo for the 
campaign - the green Brazilian flag with a corner torn 
away - which symbolizes the destruction of the country's 
green forests. The Foundation has been allowed access to 
satellite photographs of the Atlantic forest area so that it 
can work out the rate and pattern of deforestation and the 
impact of subsequent erosion and flooding. The group has 
several priorities: to set up and manage specific conser- 
vation sites: to develop sustainable ways of using natural 
resources: to increase environmental awareness through- 
out the country; and to encourage research into the 
forests. The appearance of the SOS Atlantic Forest 
Foundation reflects changing attitudes throughout Bra- 
zil. More than 500 new pressure groups have been formed 
in the last five years. 


Mention deforestation in Brazil and most people immediately 
think of the destruction of the Amazonian rain forests. However, 
in the east of the country there are other, entirely different 
forests or, more accurately, a few remnant patches of those 
forests, which are in much greater danger of disappearing. The 
Atlantic forests used to cover about one million square kilo- 
metres (385,000 square miles), stretching from the state of Rio 
Grande do Norte at the easternmost tip of South America down as 
far as Rio Grande do Sul. the southernmost state in Brazil, in a 
strip ranging from several to 160 kilometres (100 miles) wide. 

These forests were some of the finest in the world and even now. 
although they are reduced to a mere one to five percent of their 
original extent, they contain an incredible richness and diversity 
of life. The state of the lowland forests is particularly precarious, 
whereas the montane forests on the slopes of the Serra do Mar 
have been protected to a certain extent by the steepness of the 
terrain. Little clearance has occurred above 1,000 metres (3,300 
feet): in the state of Rio de Janeiro it is illegal to clear forests 
above this height, but it is not always possible to enforce the law. 

Early visitors, including the young Charles Darwin, were 
overwhelmed by the luxuriant high Atlantic forests, festooned in 
orchids and bromeliads and full of a variety of birds, insects, 
mammals and other animals. Indeed, the forests are still of special 
interest because of the large number of unique species that they 
contain. For instance, there are an incredible 2,124 species of 

butterfly: two-thirds of all Brazil's butterflies, and one-eighth of 
the world's butterfly fauna. Of these, 913 are endemic. Similarly, 
17 of the 21 primate species in the Atlantic forests are unique to 
the region, as are more than half of the tree species. As might be 
expected, many of these are endangered and it is quite possible 
that some have already become extinct. This is possibly the fate of 
one of the smallest birds in the region, the kinglet calyptura 
(.Calyptura cristata), which has not been seen this century. 

The arrival of the Europeans 

The area occupied by the Atlantic forests has been inhabited for 
many thousands of years. The Amerindians, who were hunter- 
gatherers, arrived around 10.000 years ago, but they probably had 
little impact on the forest. About 1,500 years ago, they were 
driven from the forests to the less productive highlands of the 
interior by the Tupi-Guarani. These Indians were shifting 
cultivators, planting manioc and other crops in place of the forest 
trees. However, they too were not an important agent in the 
deforestation: it is estimated that each family cleared only one 
hectare (2.5 acres) of forest a year. 

As a result of its coastal location, the Atlantic forest area was 
the first place in South America to be colonized by Europeans, in 
1500. This is when the destruction began. Ports and trading posts 
were set up all along the coast, and these provided the first bases 
for exploration inland. 

Brazil's trees - When the fruit 
of a Brazil nut tree {BerihoUetia 
excelsa) ripens it splits open to 
reveal the hard, edible nuts 
within iabove). Brazil nut trees 
are found along the banks of the 
Amazon and Orinoco Rivers, and 
their fruits are one of Brazil's 
most important rain forest 
products. In contrast, the tree 
from which Brazil got its name, 
the American Brazilwood 

(Caesalpinia echinata), was once 
used in the production of red and 
orange dyes, which were 
exported to Europe and North 
America in large quantities 
during the 18th century. By the 
19th century, supplies had been 
severely reduced and now the 
tree is of no commercial 
importance. The American 
Brazilwood is even difficult to 
find in its native habitat. 

Only enough for veneer - The 

tree that provides the most 
valuable wood in all of Brazil is 
now on the endangered list. The 
Brazilian rosewood {Dalbergia 
nigra) has long been in demand 
for furniture-making, but it has 
been so intensively logged that 
supplies can no longer meet the 
demand, even though the timber 
is now ordinarily used only as a 
thin veneer to cover less 

attractive woods. There are no 
commercial plantations of this 
species, mainly because it was 
thought to be too slow-growing. 
However, research has begun 
into the possibility of improving 
cultivation techniques. 


Butterflies everywhere 

With more than 2,000 species of 
butterfly, including Dismorphia 
amphione (left), Callithea 
h'prieuri (top), and Callithea 
sapphira (above), the Atlantic 
coast forests are a veritable 
butterfly paradise. But along 
with the rain forests, many of 
these butterflies are in danger 
of extinction. 

The Pataxo (left) - Monte 
Pascoal, a national park in the 
state of Bahia, was established in 
1961. At that time, both Pataxo 
Indians and other Brazilians 
were living in the area. The 
latter were moved and the 
Brazilian agency concerned with 
the rights of the Indians 
attempted to have the area 
declared Pataxo Indian land. But 
in response, the agency 
responsible for forests and 
national parks decreed that the 
Indians must also be moved. In 
August 1980, as a result of 
increasing pressure from the 
Pataxo. some 85 sq km (33 sq 
miles) of the park were returned 
to them. This land, largely 
forested at the time it was 
handed over to the Indians, is 
now completely cleared, and 
much of it is abandoned pasture 
land. Although before 1961 this 
area had been occupied by the 
Pataxo and provided them with a 
sustainable livelihood for more 
than a hundred years, it appears 
that it can no longer do so. One 
of the main reasons for this is 
probably the pressure brought to 

bear on them to change the way 
in which they harvest the forest. 
It has been claimed that local 
timber merchants have provided 
chainsaws and have encouraged 
the Pataxo to cut the timber in 
the park. In the meantime, the 
conflict between the agencies 
continues. The Pataxo are 
demanding that the whole Monte 
Pascoal National Park be given 
to them, and yet that seems to 
spell certain disaster for the 
remaining 140 sq km (54 sq miles) 
of one of Brazil's most visited 
national parks. 



Paie-fronted capuchin 

Common marmoset 

Atlantic forest primates 

The Atlantic forest region is home to six primate genera 
(Callithrix. Leontopithecus, Callicebus, Cebus, Alouatta 
and Brachyteles). including as many as 21 species and 
subspecies of monkey. More than 80 percent of these 
primates are found only in the Atlantic forests and, 
consequently, at least 13 are considered to be endangered; 
another three are vulnerable. Several of the endangered 
species are on the verge of extinction, only a few hundred 
members remaining in the wild. Two of these, the golden 
lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) and the muriqui or 
woolly spider monkey (Brachyteles arachnoides). are 
members of the two endemic Atlantic forest primate 
genera, and their situation can be taken as indicative of 
what is happening in the region as a whole. 

The muriqui is the largest primate in South America. 
There were probably as many as 400,000 of these delightful 
creatures in the Atlantic forests when Europeans reached 
Brazil in the sixteenth century. Indeed, they were so 
abundant that some early expeditions were able to live 
entirely on their meat. By the early 1970s, there were 
perhaps 3,000 individuals remaining, but now only 11 
populations are thought to survive, totalling a mere 400 
animals. Although the muriqui has long been a target for 
hunters and is still poached for food, sport or to obtain an 
infant as a pet, the main factor in its decline has been 
habitat destruction. 

As the forest area becomes smaller and more frag- 
mented, the muriqui is usually the first primate to 
disappear; it is more demanding than the other primates in 
its choice of habitat; less able to use the remaining forest 
fragments; and slower to re-establish itself in protected 

Golden lion tamarin 

areas. Fortunately, the precarious state of this unique 
primate has been recognized in Brazil; it has become the 
national symbol for conservation. There is now a con- 
certed effort to save it and its forest home from extinction. 

The story of the golden lion tamarin and of the other two 
species in the same genus, the golden-headed lion tamarin 
(Leontopithecus chrysomelas) and the golden-rumped lion 
tamarin (L. chrysopygus). is similar to that of the muriqui. 
They too are disappearing as the forests are destroyed. The 
strikingly-coloured golden lion tamarin has always been 
restricted to the coastal lowlands of the comparatively 
small state of Rio de Janeiro. Only two wild populations 
are now thought to exist; one of them in the Pogo das 
Antas Biological Reserve, which was established in 1974 
mainly for its protection; and the other in a stretch of 
forest along the coast from the mouth of the Rio Sao Joao. 
Between these two areas, there are probably as few as 250 
individuals left. 

The golden lion tamarin has long been kept as a pet, 
even by eighteenth-century European royalty, and it is 
comparatively common in zoos; there are perhaps 300 
monkeys in colonies in the United States and Europe. 
Although this trade contributed to the decline of the 
species in the wild, it is perhaps fortunate that there is a 
good breeding stock in captivity. Some of these captive 
tamarins have now been taken back to Brazil and 
reintroduced to the Pofo das Antas Reserve. Although 
there have been many problems trying to teach ex-captive 
individuals to live in the wild, the project now appears to 
be succeeding. The juveniles have adapted comparatively 
well, and some of the adults have even begun to breed. 



Monte Pascoal 












20 40 60 80 100 

150 miles 



50 100 150 200 kms 

I I Lowland Rain Forest (below 910ni/3.000ftl 
I Montane Rain Forest (above 910m/3.000fti 
BB Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 
yA Protected Area (referred to in text) 


P ■ 

Bombing the forest - Brazilian 
scientists have taken to the skies 
in an attempt to sow the seeds of 
a tropical forest. Flying above 
denuded areas, they have 
dropped millions of gelatine 
"bombs", each loaded with about 
10 seeds of tropical plants. The 
plan is part of an emergency 
exercise to prevent landslides on 
the deforested slopes above the 
industrial town of Cubatao in the 
state of Sao Paulo. 

Only in the wild {left) - One of 
the most highly endangered 
mammals in the Atlantic forests, 
the maned sloth (Bradypus 
lorquatus), is hunted for food, 
caught for the pet trade, or dies 
when its forest home is logged. A 
highly specialized leaf-eating 
animal, it has so far defied all 
efforts to keep it in captivity for 
more than a few months. A few 
survive in the wild in the Po);;o 
das Antas Biological Reserve, 
where a reafforestation project, 
designed principally to increase 
suitable habitat for the golden 
lion tamarin (Leontopiihecus 
rosalia), is helping the plight of 
the maned sloth. 



The forests were first exploited for their timber, and then the 
fertile lands of the coastal plains were converted to agricultural 
plantations, particularly for the cultivation of sugar cane. With 
the discovery of gold and diamonds in the late sixteenth century, 
a move inland started and the wilderness areas of Minas Gerais 
and Sao Paulo became heavily populated, whole forests being 
cleared for the mines and farms needed to feed the miners. The 
mines were exhausted within a century. Agriculture then became 
the most important economic activity in Brazil, which meant that 
vast areas of forest were cleared for crops such as coffee, bananas 
and rubber. Even the wars with the Indians took their toll of the 
forests, for military divisions used to set fire to areas to drive the 
natives out of their homes and hiding places. 

As early as 1831, the French naturalist Auguste de Saint- 
Hilaire expressed concern for the fate of the magnificent forests 
that were steadily being changed to farmland. However, from the 
beginning of this century, and particularly in the last two or three 
decades, the destruction has accelerated. 

The Atlantic forest region is now the agricultural and indus- 
trial heart of Brazil. It has within its borders two of the three 
largest cities in South America, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo 
(the latter is one of the largest in the world). Forty-three percent 
of Brazil's rapidly growing population of around 148 million 
people is squeezed into this region. The forests are now tiny green 
islands in a sea of civilization. 

Virtually all of the Atlantic forest region is in private hands. 
Although under current laws 20 percent of this has to be kept as 
forest, the fines for violating these regulations are only a fraction 
of the income that can be obtained by selling the wood. This has 
created a mosaic of forest fragments, which display a remarkable 
biological robustness in that there are no documented extinc- 
tions in this region. Sustainable forest management has yet to be 
attempted. Frequently, the techniques used for the extraction of a 
few timber species causes widespread destruction. 

At the moment a mere 0.1 percent of the original forest expanse 
is protected in national parks, biological reserves, ecological 
stations, state parks and private reserves. The conservation of 
these areas is hampered by lack of finances and inadequate 
management, and there are no means of enforcing existing 
protective legislation. There is now little or no suitable land 
available for the establishment of new reserves and parks, except 
perhaps in southern Bahia, so it is essential that the existing 
areas are adequately protected. 

Fortunately, rural land owners are interested in creating their 
own private fauna refuges and the programme to encourage this 
has been very successful. There is also every sign that the 
younger generation in Brazil is interested in and concerned 
about the environment. There has been much pressure from both 
outside and within the country to preserve the last fragments of 
the Atlantic forest. 

Saved from railway - A mining 
company, cvrd (Companhia Vale 
do Rio Doce), owns a remarkably 
well preserved stretch of rain 
forest next to the Sooretama 
National Biological Reserve near 
Linhares in the state of Espirito 
Santo. The company originally 
acquired the site to cut down the 
forest and use the wood for 
railway sleepers. However, the 
decline of mining in the area 
made the railway unnecessary 
and this, combined with pressure 
from the World Bank and, most 
significantly, its own realization 
of the value of the forest as it 
stood, decided the area's fate. 
Instead of being destroyed, the 
forest is now used as a research 

site by the company. The 
supervisor of the area, Renato de 
Jesus, is a botanist and he has 
found many new plant species 
and even a completely new plant 
family. Native plants from the 
reserve are used to restore areas 
affected by the company's mining 
activities elsewhere, and there 
are teams of seed gatherers in the 
forest each day. In spite of the 
high cost of the reserve, about 
US$350,000 a year, the company 
is committed to study and protect 
the area. This is, along with the 
Sooretama Reserve, the largest 
remaining relatively intact 
stretch of lowland forest in the 
entire Atlantic forest region. 

Threatened birds Although all 
hunting of wildlife is prohibited 
in the Atlantic forests, law 
enforcement outside the reserves 
and national parks is almost non- 
existent. Larger bird species, 
including the red-ruffed fruitcrow 
iPyroderus scutatus). the dusky- 
legged guan (Penelope obscura) 
and the rusty-margined guan 
(Penelope superciliaris) pictured 
above, have been almost hunted 
out in some areas: but even tiny 
manakins and flycatchers are 
considered fair game. Another 
serious threat to the birds is the 
massive cage-bird trade. In rural 
areas, it is uncommon to find a 
house without one or more birds 
in cages, and most town and city 

houses have them too. Seed 
eaters are particularly popular; 
macaws and parrots are also in 
demand. All of these birds are 
now hard to find in the wild. It is 
possible that some of the rarer 
species would be able to spread 
out from the patches of primary 
forest in which they survive at 
present if the surrounding forest 
was protected, acting as a buffer 
zone. Some areas have been 
reafforested with exotic tree 
species such as eucalyptus and 
pine, but this does not help the 
birds because most of them 
cannot survive in these forests. 
Their numbers are also reduced 
by the use of pesticides on farms 
near to the primary forest. 


West Afrstea 

By the fourteenth century. West Africa had a thriving economy 
and social structure based on trading gold across the Sahara. 
Following the arrival of Europeans, a lucrative coastal trade in 
gold, ivory and slaves was also established. The infamous slave 
trade was not stopped until the latter half of the eighteenth 
century, just prior to Europe's scramble for dominion over Africa. 
Cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa, ground nuts and cotton then 
became important throughout the region, and staple foods 
included cassava (introduced from South America, where it is 
called manioc), yam and maize (introduced from Central Amer- 
ica). By the 1960s many West African nations had gained 
independence, and minerals such as oil. uranium, iron ore, gold 
and diamonds had become important economically. 

Originally, the West African belt of moist tropical forest was 
virtually uninhabited, because the population favoured the more 
comfortable savanna farther inland. The introduction of commer- 
cial logging, the advent of modern tools and increased population 
pressure has changed all that. 

The West African evergreen forests contain many economi- 
cally important plants including the African rubber tree (Landol- 
phia sp.). the Sierra Leone frankincense (Daniellia thurifera), 
yam (Dioscorea rotunda), oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and kapok 
(Ceiba pentandra). They are also home to the African elephant 
(Loxodonta africana), pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis), 
pygmy chimpanzee {Pan paniscus). drill (Papio leucophaeus). red 
colobus monkey {Colobus badius) and many other rarities. There 
are quite a number of species unique to the region: in the Tai 
forest in Cote d'lvoii-e. .54 percent of the 1.300 plant species are 
endemic. There is also a rich bird and butterfly fauna. 

The population of West Africa is growing at a rate close to the 
human maximum - doubling every 20 years. The largest country 
by far is Nigeria, home for one in every five Africans. Immigration 
from the drought-stricken Sahel further swells numbers in some 
countries, such as Mali and Niger. The population problem is 
compounded by the fact that many West African governments are 
economically dependent on cash crops, which take up land at the 
expense of food crops, and by the relative lack of applied research 
into ways of improving local agriculture. The genetic engineer- 
ing that resulted in the hybrid cereals used in the Asian and Latin 
American Green Revolutions largely bypassed Africa. Low soil 

Proposed Protected Area 
i (referred to in text) 

fertility and poor agricultural techniques continue to produce 
low yields, which in turn lead to repeated clearance of rain forest 
for agriculture, with the ensuing damage to watersheds, soil 
structure and water supplies. The burgeoning population also 
has an increasing need for construction materials and fuelwood. 
Traditional cooking methods often waste up to 90 percent of the 
heat available from burning wood, when relatively simple 
changes could halve this loss. 

Commercial logging started in the more accessible regions in 
the 1880s involving the selective extraction of African mahogany 
(Khaya ivorensis) and limbe (Terminalia superba). At that time 
there was about 420,000 square kilometres (160,000 square miles) 
of rain forest. One hundred years later, in 1980, only 173.000 
square kilometres (66,800 square miles) remained, and a further 
four percent was being lost each year. Today, perhaps 166,000 

The population of West Africa is 
growing at a rate close to the human 
maximum - doubling every 20 years. 

The largest country. Nigeria, 
home for one in every five Africans. 

square kilometres (64,000 square miles) is still standing. The 
primary forests of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'lvoire and 
Nigeria have all decreased to less than 10 percent of their original 
extent, although Ghana retains a more healthy 22 percent. 

Recent developments give cause for some optimism. Liberia, 
Sierra Leone and Nigeria are at last gazetting rain forest 
national parks. The conservation movement has come a long way 
from its original stance of maintaining sacrosanct reserves. The 
new approach emphasizes dialogue with rural peoples to protect 
core areas, surrounded by buffer zones where the sustainable use 
of the land is encouraged. 




Gulf of Guinea 

Mt Nimba and the viviparous toad 

West Africa stretches away before your eyes from the 
summit of Mt Nimba. The mountain rises spectacularly to 
over 1,750 metres (5,740 feet), in sharp contrast to the 
surrounding country. Climbing the mountain from the 
lowland savanna, you first walk through a belt of ever- 
green rain forest, where trees are festooned with lianas 
and other epiphytes. Above this lie the high-altitude 
grasslands. There are more than 200 species of plant and 
animal that are unique to the area. Perhaps the most 
intriguing is a viviparous toad, Nectophrynoides sp. the 
only amphibian in the world to give birth to fully- 
developed baby toads. This habitat will not remain 
unchanged for long because Nimba is a mountain of iron 
ore and other minerals. Large iron mines have already 
badly degraded the southern area of rain forest in Liberia. 


A first for Nigeria - The 

proposed Cross River National 
Park on the Oban Hills, is the 
first rain forest park in Nigeria, 
where less than .50.000 sq km 
(19.300 sq miles) of rain forest 
:nx- left. 

Benin to Sierra Leone The 

rain forests east of Benin have 
been badly affected by 
commercial logging and 
agricultural clearance. 
Deforestation has even been 
blamed for the drought of 1986. 
which reduced harvests by 50' 
m southwest Cote d'lvoire. In 
spite of this, Sapo and Tai 
National Parks and the Gola 
forests remain intact, providing 
a ray of hope in the region. Sapo, 
Liberia's first national park, is to 
be developed as a conservation 
model for the rest of the country. 
Film shows organized by the park 
warden alert local people to the 
problems of over-exploitation of 
their forest. Former poachers are 
now turning into gamekeepers, 
taking responsibility for their 
environment. Villagers are also 
being shown new farming 
techniques which allow them to 
get the most from their land. 

<5 \ 

SAO ' 
TOME /' 






African grey parrot 

■'i ,: 

Trading in parrots - West 
Africa has a wonderful variety of 
parrots from the green-yellow 
Senegal (Poicephalus senegalus) 
to the talking African grey 
{Psittacus erithacus). It is also the 
largest bird-exporting region in 
the world, more than 75% of the 
captured birds being sent to the 
United States and Europe as 
pets. For every bird that 
completes its journey. 10 die 
during capture or transit. The 
British market could now be 
solely supplied by existing 
captive-breeding projects, but 
such birds are twice as expensive 
as those caught in the wild. 
Encouragingly. New York State 
banned imports of caged wild 
birds in 1984. and there have 
even been proposals for villagers 
to breed the African grey parrot 
in the buffer zone around 
Salonga National Park in Zaire. 

With local consent - Villagers 
m Cameroon and Nigeria often 


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The hunting of mermaids - 

Manatees, or sea cows, are the 
ancient source of mariner's tales 
of mermaids. Unlike other 
marine mammals, they are 
herbivorous and, as well as living 
along coastlines, they can move 
inshore to coastal swamps and 
even up rivers. Manatees have a 
low reproductive rate and the 
mother suckles her young for 
about 18 months. They are 
particularly docile and are 
hunted for their delicious meat. 
Regarded as pests by fishermen, 
the Senegal manatee {Trichechus 
senegalensis) is caught by 
trapping, netting and 
harpooning. The hunters rely on 
the fact that the manatees move 
into mangrove swamps as the 
tide rises; to catch them, nets and 
traps are set to prevent their 
escape as the tide ebbs. They are 
worth little in cash terms 
because the meat is customarily 
shared among the villagers. In a 
survey in 1987, some manatee 
trappers in Sierra Leone reported 
a decreased catch, but other 
areas still support large 
populations. There is 
considerable potential for 
manatee conservation. 

Rediscovered gorillas - 

Western lowland gorillas {Gorilla 
gorilla gorilla) have been 
rediscovered in Nigeria after 30 
years during which they were 
believed to have become extinct 
there. This find is all the more 
astonishing considering the 
density of Nigeria's human 
population. Gorillas are 
threatened by habitat loss and 
hunting for food and trophies. A 
single gorilla carcass can fetch 
double a labourer's monthly 
wage in Lagos, and one 
community reported killing 6 
gorillas in 1987 alone, not to 

mention those wounded. There 
may be up to 300 individuals in 
3-5 groups within the country. 
Although highly elusive in thick 
forest, their numbers can be 
assessed from counting sleeping 
nests and their distinctive, 
trilobed droppings. The studies 
have shown that the gorillas are 
still reproducing, but the births 
are not keeping pace with the 
numbers being killed through 
hunting. Nigeria is now 
considering the creation of a new 
park, the Boshe-Okawango 
National Park, to protect the 
western lowland gorilla. 

Food from the wild 

Up to one-fifth of all the animal protein consumed in rural 
areas of West Africa comes from wild animals. This 
"bushmeat" includes small antelopes, such as duikers, 
and a wide variety of monkeys; less obvious culinary 
delicacies include cane rats, porcupine, caterpillars, ter- 
mites, grasshoppers and the giant African land snail 
(Achatina fulica) pictured above. In much of the region, 
bushmeat is preferred to domestic livestock and is more 
expensive. Continued hunting pressure is threatening a 
number of endangered species, particularly primates. 
Wildlife farming, coupled with revision of existing legisla- 
tion to allow controlled hunting of non-threatened ani- 
mals, may ensure the survival of rare primates and 
antelopes, yet allow bushmeat still to be eaten. 


Central and East Africa 

I I Lowland Rain Forest (below l,200m/4.000ftl 
^1 Montane Rain ForesKabove 1.200m/4,000n;) 
^H Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 

Mosaic of Grassland and Former Rain Forest 

Protected Area (referred to in text) 

Logging for plywood - Logging 
in Gabon is highly selective: 90% 
of the trees cut are of a single 
species, okoume {Aucoumea 
klaineana). which is found only 
in Central Africa. This species 
produces lightweight wood which 
is easily turned into plywood. 
Okoume trees are quite widely 
spaced throughout the forest, and 
although the structure of the 
forest is altered by their 
extraction, it is not too 
extensively damaged. 

Gabon's new railway - The 

completion of Gabon's major 
rail link from Libreville to 
Franceville has opened 
previously inaccessible forest to 
logging. Foreign logging 
companies are capitalizing on 
this and it is estimated that in 
10-15 years most of the virgin 
okoume forest, which at present 
covers 70% of the country, will 
have been logged. 



ilbira ^ v _ 
m- ^Ruvubu 




( /' 

Mbuti - The Ituri forest, home of 
the hunter-gathering Mbuti 
Pygmies, is threatened hy human 
settlement from outside. These 
audacious Pygmies fell forest 
elephants by cutting their 
hamstrings, but also catch many 
other animals including the blue 
duiker (Cephalophus monticola) 
and the sitatunga {Tragelaphus 
spekei). Fortunately, they can 
find most of their traditional prey 
in the areas of regenerating 
secondary forest that are left 
after the settlers have moved on. 



A belt of tropical rain forest spans the centre of Africa, running 
from Cameroon and Gabon on the Atlantic coast to Kenya and 
Tanzania on the Indian Ocean. Within this belt, the climate, and 
hence the type of forest, is very varied. Unending vistas of dark, 
impenetrable jungle are associated with the Central African 
countries, while East Africa is largely covered with bushland, the 
rain forests restricted to fertile mountain regions. 

More than 80 percent of Africa's rain forest is in Central Africa, 
much of it largely untouched. Relatively little is known about the 
region's history, and there are remarkably few excavated 
archaeological sites. The vast Zaire Basin is inhospitable to 
settlers. In contrast, the East African climate is more favourable 
to human settlement and agriculture, and some of the earliest 
human remains have been discovered there. Agriculture is the 
mainstay of most East African economies, superseded by tourism 
in Kenya, whereas the Central African economies are largely 
based on minerals - diamonds in the Central African Republic, 
copper and cobalt in Zaire, manganese and oil in Gabon. 

The rain forests of Central Africa are believed to originate from 
a number of small, isolated patches of forest, called refugia (see 
page 52), that survived the dry African climate during the last Ice 
Age. These refugia, one of which was in the highlands of eastern 
Zaire, are extremely old and support a wealth of species. When 
the climate became wetter, 12,000 years ago, the rain forest 
expanded, recolonizing the region. Today. Zaire is Africa's 
richest country in terms of plants and animals, having more than 
11,000 plant species of which nearly one-third are found nowhere 
else. With a grand total of 409 species of mammal, it has almost 
100 more than any other country on the continent. The forests of 
Central Africa are home to such animals as pygmy chimpanzees, 
gorillas, okapis, and forest elephants. The discovery of the 
suntailed guenon (Cercopithecus solatus). a new species of 
primate, in Gabon, and the rediscovery of the eastern lowland 
gorilla (Gorilla gorilla graueri) in western Zaire, suggest that 

Tanzania's mountain forests 

The eastern rain forests of Tanzania, particularly those on 
the Usambara, Uluguru and Uzungwa mountains, may 
have received a reprieve. These ancient mountains, 
islands of heavy rainfall in an otherwise arid country, 
were uninhabited until Europeans set up coffee and tea 
plantations at the beginning of this century. But the 
population increase in recent decades, and the develop- 
ment of timber extraction, have threatened the moun- 
tains' unique ecology. Recently a plan to set up commer- 
cial sawmills has been replaced by an lUCN project aimed 
at watershed conservation and sustainable development. 
Poor farming techniques have led to soil erosion, and the 
need to clear more forest has been increasing. To combat 
this problem, new crops and farming techniques are being 
encouraged in the eastern Usambaras. Contour planting 
and nitrogen-fixing shade trees have been introduced, so 
that the farmers are able to protect their land, and 
villagers are managing areas of forest attributed to them. 

Elephants and conservation - 

The international ivory trade has 
halved elephant numbers in 
Africa during the last decade. In 
the Zaire Basin elephants 
continue to survive well away 
from human settlement, but the 
relationship between elephants. 
Pygmies and forest regeneration 
that has existed for centuries is 
in jeopardy. In their quest for 
salt, elephants dig at the ground 

(below), openmg up small patches 
of the forest, allowing light to 
penetrate which encourages the 
growth of understorey plants. 
This new vegetation attracts 
antelope which are then hunted 
by Pygmies. In January 1990, a 
worldwide ban on the ivory trade 
came into force. However, 
several African nations have said 
they will maintain the trade 
while protecting their herds. 

^->'- '^'- "."SS 






J^ \» 


EQUATORIAL /• Mont Men , • \J 
GUINEA j*""/~r" r--- — ._* f • 

Principe* /•j? «i • v-. 

I Sao Tome <* 

•, Odzala ' 


' GABON ' 


100 200 300 miles 

— H H 1 ^ 


Former Rain Forest 

Mosaic of Grassland and Former Rain Forest 

Central African Project 

An ambitious project for the conservation and sustained 
use of forest ecosystems, designed by lUCN and funded by 
the EEC, is under way in Central Africa. More than 100 
sites of critical importance to the safeguarding of biodi- 
versity have been identified and measures proposed to 
ensure their conservation. A network of pilot projects is 
being set up. one in each of the countries of the region, in 
which different aspects of a community-based approach to 
resource management will be demonstrated. 

In the Central African Republic, post-logging forest 
management will be examined as a way of enriching the 
forest to encourage investment in its maintenance. 

In Cameroon, genetically improved hardwood species 
will be bred and high-yielding plantations established in 
the buffer zone around the Dja Reserve. 

In Gabon, the aim is to improve the sustainability of 

traditional hunting by giving villagers control over local 
hunting areas. 

In Sao Tome, plantations of fast-growing species will 
provide fuelwood and construction timber to relieve 
demand for these products from natural forests. 

In Congo, application of the Pygmies' traditional 
knowledge of the forest ecosystem will be used in the 
buffer zone around the Odzala National Park. 

In Equatorial Guinea, forest concessions will be zoned 
to provide protection to the Mont Alen National Park, and 
agroforestry will be encouraged in communities living 
near to the edge of the forests. 

In central Zaire, a major research centre will be 
established, near to the Salonga National Park, as a 
regional focus for research into the many different ways in 
which the forest can be used and conserved. 


further equally exciting finds are still to be made in this region. 

Hunter-gathering, one of the oldest ways in which humans 
have exploited their environment, has long been practised in the 
rain forests of Centra! Africa. Even today the Babinga Pygmies of 
the Central African Republic and the Mbuti of Zaire and Congo 
continue to harvest the forest in this way. In the Ituri forest, the 
Mbuti have been closely associated with a tribe of shifting 
cultivators, the Bantus, for more than 2.000 years. The Bantus 
exchange the products of their agriculture for the Mbuti's fruits 
of the forest. The way in which the Bantus carry on this ancient 
system of agriculture, in which patches of forest are cleared for a 
few years of subsistence cropping, does little long-term damage. 
During long fallow periods the forest regenerates around the cut 
tree trunks which have been left behind. Increasing population 
pressure and settlement by urban poor is disrupting many of the 
traditional agricultural techniques, however, leading to shorter 
fallow periods and over-working of the fragile soils. 

As the population increases, the need for development is 
affecting more of the region. Roads have been built through Zaire 
and the Central African Republic. The trans-Gabon railway was 
completed in 1987, encouraging further settlement and forest 

encroachment. Zaire has a population density of only 13 people 
per square kilometre (34 people per square mile), 25 times lower 
than that of neighbouring Rwanda. But the rate of growth of its 

The rain forests of Central Africa are 
believed to originate from a number 

of small, isolated patches of 

forest... that survived the dry African 

climate during the last Ice Age. 

population has been increasing over the last 30 years to the 
present rate of more than three percent a year. In two or three 
decades Zaire's population will have doubled, and there will be 
even more pressure to colonize the forests. 


Surrounded by people - The 

mountain forests of Rwanda and 
Burundi, home of the mountain 
gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei), 
are surrounded by a sea of 
humanity. These tiny countries 
support the continent's highest 
population densities, having a 
staggering 350 people per sq km 
(906 people per sq mile). The 
process of forest clearance, kwica 
ishyamba, which literally means 
"to kill the forest", was started 
by the Hutu agriculturalists on 
payment of dues to the original 
custodians of the forests, the 
hunter-gatherer Twa tribe. In the 
13th century, the pastoralist 
Tutsi invaded and since then 
pastoralisra has been the 
dominant system of agriculture. 
Recent forest clearance has been 
for cash crops such as pyrethrum, 
tea. coffee and quinine. 
Encouragingly, this is now on 
the decline, and Burundi has 
established its first 2 national 
parks. Kilbira and Ruvubu. 
within the past 10 years. Rwanda 
is already well known for its 
highly successful mountain 
gorilla project. 






I^Bugoma LqkeV J'^ ^^m Leroghi^ ^U^ 



Changing values - The Kayas 
are small forest patches sacred to 
the Mikijenda people, who 
originally used them as forest 
fortresses more than 400 years 
ago. Since then they have become 
centres of ritual activity and 
burial. Their spiritual 
significance and the sinister 
folklore associated with some 
areas has protected the Kayas 
until recently. Values are now 
changing and the younger 
generation of Mikijenda pays 
little heed to their culture. 
Despite a presidential ban on the 
cutting of indigenous trees, parts 
of the Kayas are being cut for 
timber, agriculture and wood 
carving. The status and 
conservation requirements of 
these forests are now being 
assessed in a project funded by 
the World Wide Fund for Nature. 

Former Rain Forest 
Protected Area (referred to in text) 


9\ Comoros Islands 



land Rain Forest (below 910ni/3.000ftJ 

Montane Rain Forest labove 910m/3.000fti 

Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 



Protected Area (referred to in texti 

Proposed Protected Area (referred t« in text i 

Masoala - The Masoala 
peninsula contains the largest 
stretch of lowland rain forest left 
in Madagascar. It is particularly 
rich in endemic plants, as shown 
by the fact that 2 new palm 
genera were discovered there in 
1986. There used to be a reserve 
on the peninsula, but it was 
declassified in 1964 and some of 
the land is now planted with oil 
palm trees. It is hoped that a 
national park will be set up on 
Masoala to protect the forest and 
its animals, particularly those 
species that are found nowhere 
else, such as the red-ruffed lemur 
{Varecia variegate rubra). 

Pines that didn't pay 

Plantations of exotic trees often 
seem easier to manage and 
harvest than natural forests, but 
investors have run into 
unexpected difficulties. For 
example, the World Bank helped 
establish 600 sq km (230 sq miles) 
of pines near Moramanga to feed 
a pulp mill that was to be built 
near by. It was soon discovered 
that the trees needed expensive 
fertilizers if they were to reach 
the high levels of productivity 
expected of them. Poor growth 
meant that plans for the new 
pulp mill were abandoned. In the 
end fire destroyed some of the 
plantation, and the rest is 
useless. Madagascar now has to 
repay the loan for a project that 
cleared potentially useful natural 
forest for little or no benefit. 



At around 1.600 kilometres (1,000 miles) long and 450 kilometres 
(280 miles) wide, Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island. 
It has been separated from the mainland for 150 million years or 
more. Most of its plants and animals have evolved in isolation for 
at least 40 million years, ever since the channel between Africa 
and Madagascar became too wide for any life to raft across from 
the mainland. The result is that most of Madagascar's flora and 
fauna is unique to the island. Botanically. it is one of the richest 
areas in the world. 

About 80 percent of Madagascar's 10,000 plant species are 
endemic. All 30 of its primate species are lemurs, and none is 
found anywhere outside Madagascar and the adjacent Comoro 
Islands. Two-thirds of the world's chameleons - from one the size 
of a thumbnail to one 60 centimetres (24 inches) long - are found 
on the island. In addition, more than 90 percent of Madagascar's 
reptiles and amphibians are unique to the island. The list could 
continue. However, so much of this wildlife is threatened that 
Madagascar is frequently considered to be the single highest 
conservation priority in the world. 

Rural population pressure 

Humans arrived on Madagascar as recently as 1,500 years ago, 
many of them having come originally from Indonesia. Today, 
there are 11.2 million people in the country, more than twice as 
many as there were in 1960, and it is estimated there will be 28 
million by the year 2025. The population is still mostly rural and 
dependent on the land for its livelihood. It is this rural population 

pressure that is causing the rapid destruction of the rain forests 
that lie along the eastern side of the country. 

To feed the expanding population, the forests are cut and 
burned and rice is most commonly planted in place of the trees; 
but maize, cassava (manioc) and other crops are also grown. As 
with most other rain forest areas, the soil is relatively impover- 
ished and sustains the crops for only a couple of years. Falling 
yields force the farmers to move on and clear more forest. The 
forests also supply the rural population with all its fuel. Because 
almost all the lowland forest has disappeared, the search for 
fuelwood is now reaching higher up the hillsides. In 1985, it was 
estimated that as little as 38,000 square kilometres (14,700 square 
miles) of rain forest remained intact, half that recorded in 1950 
and about one-third of the original extent. If cutting continues at 
the present rate, only those forests in the most remote and 
inaccessible areas will survive the next 35 years. 

Destruction of the Malagasy rain forest has been described as 
"a tragedy without villains". Although there has been some 
commercial logging in the past, particularly for ebony and 
rosewood, this has had comparatively little impact. The major 
threat is from the small-scale farmers and their slash-and-burn, or 
tavy, agriculture. The government is committed to incorporating 
conservation into the country's development strategy, and the 
international community is providing money and scientific 
expertise. Without this there is little hope that Madagascar will 
continue to live up to the description given it by an eighteenth- 
century explorer as "the naturalist's Promised Land". 

Wallace's moth - Madagascar 
has more than 1,000 species of 
orchid. One of these, the comet 
orchid (Angraecum sesquipedale). 
has a tubular nectary that is 35 
cm (14 in) long. When Alfred 
Russel Wallace, an eminent 
Victorian botanist and 
contemporary of Charles Darwin, 

found this plant he predicted that 
it must be fertilized by a moth 
with a tongue at least 35 cm in 
length, so that the moth could 
reach the nectar. In due course 
the moth (Xanthopan morgani) 
was found and given the 
subspecific name praedicta, in 
honour of Wallace's foresight. 

Cyanide bamboo Discovered 
in 1987. the golden bamboo lemur 
{HapalemuT aureus) is one of the 
rarest primates in Madagascar. It 
also has one of the strangest 
diets, for it feeds on a plant that 
might be expected to kill it. The 
giant bamboo (Cephalostachyum 
vigueri), pictured above, contains 

cyanide, and the amount that the 
lemur eats each day would be 
fatal to a human. 


Ghost primates 

Probably best known of all Madagascar's animals are the 
lemurs. The name of these primates is derived from the 
Latin for ghosts - lemures - and if the Malagasy rain 
forests continue to be destroyed at the present rate, that is 
indeed what they may become. 

There are 30 different species, ranging in size from the 
tiny, nocturnal ground mouse lemur {Microcebus rufus), 
which weighs a mere 60 grammes (two ounces), to the indri 
(Indri indri). a diurnal, family-living species which may 
weigh as much as ten kilogrammes (21 pounds). The 
eastern rain forests are home to more than half the lemur 
species, including the peculiar-looking aye-aye (Dauben- 
tonia madagascariensis), which is generally considered to 
be a harbinger of evil and may be killed on sight. 

Before humans arrived in Madagascar, there were at 
least 14 more species of lemur on the island than there are 

{Main pic) Sunbathing ring-tailed lemurs {Lemur catta) 
{Inset) Mayotte lemur {Lemur fulvus mayottensis) 

today. Most were bigger than those alive now; the largest 
may have been about the size of a female gorilla. Their 
remains have been found alongside the pots that they were 
cooked in, and it appears that they became extinct 
through a combination of hunting and habitat destruc- 
tion. These large species were the ones most vulnerable to 
the impact of humans, but the threats have not disap- 
peared; although hunting may not be such a problem for 
the remaining, smaller lemurs, the destruction of the 
forests for agriculture continues at an accelerating pace. 
No forests means no lemurs, and the world will be a poorer 
place for their loss. 




Integrating conservation, education, rural development 
and improvements in local living standards is the key to 
the Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagas- 
car. From the beginning of the project in the mid-1980s, it 
was appreciated that the willing cooperation of the local 
people was vital; only if they become the forest managers, 
responsible for and reaping the benefits of the proposed 
changes, will the project succeed. 

The plan is to have a core area of 416 square kilometres 
(161 square miles) to the park, surrounded by a 1,500 
square kilometre (580 square mile) buffer zone. Within this 
zone the existing, destructive, tavy agricultural system 
will be improved and alternative farming methods will be 
introduced. These new methods may follow the example 
set in nearby Kianjavato, where model farms have been 
established to demonstrate alternative ways of using the 
land. These include reafforestation of upper watersheds, 
mixed cropping of middle slopes and intensive production 
in the bottom of valleys, with rice cultivation in paddy 
fields, fish farming and vegetable gardening. 

There is also great potential for both international and 
national tourism within the proposed park. Already the 
area receives a small but increasing flow of visitors, and 
this can be stimulated to generate revenue for the 
maintenance of the park. There are few other places in 
Madagascar where, if you are lucky, you will see 12 
different lemur species, let alone more than 70 different 
birds and numerous fascinating insects and plants. 

With funding from agencies such as the World Wide 
Fund for Nature and usaid, and help from Duke and North 
Carolina State Universities, the Malagasy government is 
keen for Ranomafana National Park to become a reality. 

Protecting the protected areas 

As long ago as 1881 there was a law in Madagascar 
condemning those who cut down the forests to be put in 
chains. Then as now such laws were difficult to enforce. 
Madagascar was one of the first countries to set up a 
network of protected areas, which it did in 1927, but it does 
not have the resources needed to protect the reserves. 
Access to its 12 Integral Nature Reserves is strictly 
forbidden, except for scientific purposes. The Special 
Reserves, which are designed to protect particular plant 
or animal species, allow unlimited access, but hunting, 
fishing, grazing of livestock or removal of forest products 
is forbidden. Local villagers are allowed to exploit certain 
forest products in the country's two national parks. 

These rain forest reserves vary in size from five square 
kilometres (two square miles) in the Special Reserve on 
the small island of Nosy Mangabe to 760 square kilometres 
(290 square miles) in the Andohahela Integral Nature 
Reserve. Many of them are protected by only one or two 
park guards, who generally do not live in the reserve itself 
but in nearby (or not so near) villages. They rarely have 
any transport, or the equipment needed for a patrol, and so 
it is impossible to ensure that the reserves are adequately 

Since 1986, the World Wide Fund for Nature and the 
Malagasy Department of Water and Forests have been 
involved in a major project to survey all the protected 
areas in Madagascar. About many of the areas surpris- 
ingly little is known, not even what species of mammals 
and birds are present, let alone what plants and insects. 
Biological inventories have been compiled as part of the 
project, and sites of unusual diversity identified. 

Ruffed lemur (Varecia vartegatus) 



The Lion King - The Sinharaja 
(or "Lion King") forest is the last 
remaining extensive patch of 
lowland rain forest in Sri Lanka, 
covering more than 1,000 sq km 
(390 sq miles). Although the only 
lions associated with Sinharaja 
are mythological, this forest is 
nevertheless a biological treasure 
trove. It harbours more than half 
of Sri Lanka's 850 endemic plant 
species, and 18 of the country's 21 
endemic bird species. In 1978. 89 
sq km (34 sq miles) of Sinharaja 
was made a Biosphere Reserve, 
followed in 1988 by the 
establishment of a 76 sq km (29 sq 
mile) World Heritage Site. 

India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh 

Sacred groves - The Indian 
word shola properly applies to 
rolling grassy hills with remnant 
patches of forest in sheltered 
sites beside rivers. Nowadays, it 
is used to describe any of the 
remaining rain forests of the 
Western Ghats. Within these 
shola forests there are a number 
of groves, each of which the 
locals believe to be under the 
protection of a particular god. 
All life within one of these groves 
is sacred, and so protected from 
any form of disturbance by the 
local people. 

India is home for about 15 percent of the world's people. Rain 
forests are found in the Western Ghats, Assam and northeast 
India, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Each of these 
widely separated regions has its own endemic animals and plants, 
and many different peoples live in the forests. A few montane 
forests survive in Sri Lanka, and although Bangladesh has been 
almost completely deforested, the largest mangroves in the world 
are found in the Ganges delta. 


Deforestation has been rapid in recent decades: up to 1,500 square 
kilometres (580 square miles) of forested land has been converted 
to other uses every year. More than 50,000 square kilometres 
(19,300 square miles) have been occupied by settlers or shifting 
cultivators, and the remaining forests often degraded by logging, 
fuelwood collection and clearance for grazing land (which is 
common in the Western Ghats). 

India has about 45,000 plant species, as many as 4,500 of which 
are threatened with extinction. Medicinal plants are particularly 
at risk because they are widely collected by rural people to treat 
common ailments. The country has a tradition of establishing 
forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries that goes back as far as 
the fourth century BC. In 1988, India had 66 national parks and 434 
wildlife sanctuaries, but recent proposals aim to raise this to 148 
and .503 respectively, covering in total area more than five 
percent of the country. Between 1950 and 1980 India lost large 
areas of her tropical forests, but in the 1980s a strong political will 
to protect and conserve forests developed, based on the force of 
public opinion. New policies were formulated and laws enacted to 
conserve what remains. 

India: the Western Ghats 

The last rain forests in peninsular India are found in the Western 
Ghats. These coastal hills extend from the extreme southern tip of 
India northwards to the Gulf of Khambhat. They cover 160,000 


Trapped macaque The rare 
lion-tailed macaque {Macaca 
silenus) occurs only in the 
evergreen forests of the Western 
Ghats, normally in groups of 15- 
20 animals. This primate can only 
travel through forest, so any gap 
in the canopy, due to a 
plantation or shifting 
cultivation, effectively blocks its 

path. Because of this, some 
populations are confined to 
islands of forest too small and 
isolated to allow sufficient 
genetic exchange with other 
troops. Wildlife managers plan to 
capture and exchange individuals 
to combat the problem of 

Caur on the Red List The 

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in 
the Western Ghats has one of the 
largest gaur (Bos gaurus) 
populations in the world. With a 
huge head, massive body and 
sturdy limbs this animal is 
among the largest of all wild 
cattle. Once common throughout 
Asia, the gaur now survives only 

.n .bwlated populations, and is 
listed as vulnerable to extinction 
in the lucN Red List of 
Threatened Animals. 


square kilometres (62,000 square miles), spanning the states of 
Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. About one- 
third of the Western Ghats is still covered by natural vegetation, 
of which 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 square miles) is rain 
forest. The rapidly expanding human population - now growing 
by 2.5 percent a year - has cleared or modified much of the 
region's original vegetation cover. Coastal lowland areas have 
been extensively settled, and the forests have made way for rice 
fields and coconut plantations. Tea, coffee, rubber, cardamom, 
cinchona (from which quinine is extracted) and other crops are 
cultivated in the hills, but rain forests can still be found at higher 
elevations, where the annual rainfall exceeds 2,000 millimetres 
(79 inches). 

The Western Ghats contain a huge diversity of species. About 
4,000 plant species have been identified, and of these almost 7.5 
percent are found only in the region's rain forests. These forests 
are also important refuges for a wide variety of animal species, 
including several endangered mammals - the Nilgiri langur 
(Presbytis johnii), wild dog (Cuon alpinus). sloth bear (Melursus 
ursinus), Malabar large-spotted civet (Viverra megaspila civet- 
Una), tiger (Panthera tigris) and gaur (Bos gaurus) - and at least 
50 endemic species of snake. 

There are eight national parks and 39 wildlife sanctuaries in 
the Western Ghats, covering a total area of 16,935 square 
kilometres (6,540 square miles) or 11 percent of the Ghats. The 
management status of these sanctuaries varies enormously; the 
Nilgiri Wildlife Sanctuary in the state of Tamil Nadu has no 
human inhabitants, a small number of abandoned plantations 
and no produce exploitation; in contrast, the Parambikulam 
Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala includes large commercial teak 
plantations and private estates given over to the cultivation of 
tapioca and rice. Although some reserves in the Western Ghats 
are given adequate protection, many others are under threat from 
logging, encroachment by local people, and the creation of 
reservoirs. One such area is the Mundanthurai Wildlife Sanctu- 
ary in Tamil Nadu which contains extensive riverine forest 
where the Tambiraparani River crosses the Mundanthurai 
plateau. There are now plans to divert the river through a 
tunnel to feed the Servalar dam. Should this plan go ahead, the 
riverine forest would be irreparablv damaged. 

Sri Lanka - Most of the natural 
vegetation in Sri Lanka has been 
cleared for cultivation. This often 
happens in a piecemeal fashion, 
small plots of land being burned 
to make way for new vegetation. 

Sundarbans Tiger Reserve - 

This watercourse through the 
Sundarbans mangrove forest 
reveals how the plant roots have 
trapped some of the silt in the 
Ganges, building up the level of 
the sediment in the delta. 



Nilgiri: a history of protection 

The Nilgiri hills have long been known for their equable 
climate. Under British occupation the region emerged as 
one of India's most popular hill stations: "You may select 
the temperature that you like best on these hills - Italy, 
France, Devonshire or Scotland", wrote Lord Macaulay in 
1834. The region also has a long history of protection, for 
large areas were once kept as hunting reserves for Indian 
royalty. In 1980. the decision was taken to create a 
Biosphere Reserve in the Nilgiri hills and adjoining areas 
of the Western Ghats. 

The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve will include at least six 
existing national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and will 
cover a total of 5,510 square kilometres (2,130 square 
miles). The reserve's topography is extremely varied, but 
consists principally of a series of plateaux and associated 
hills, ranging from 2.50 to 1,800 metres (820 to 5,900 feet) in 
height. Vegetation types include evergreen rain forest, 
montane shola forest with grassland, semi-evergreen 
forest, moist deciduous forest and dry thorn forest. 

Twenty tribal groups live in the Nilgiri Reserve. Most 
notable among these are the Cholnaiks, who are the only 
genuine hunter-gatherers in peninsular India. Ruins of 
temples, villages and water tanks provide evidence that 
the area was once inhabited by a culture which developed 
an advanced system of irrigation. 

Colonial life (left, top left) - 

During the heat of the Indian \_ 

summer, the British would retire 

to the hills. Hill stations 

provided an escape from the 

extremes of the Indian climate 

from the beginning of the 

summer until the end of the 

monsoons in the autumn. 

The proposed Biosphere Reserve will be zoned. A core 
area of 1,240 square kilometres (480 square miles) will be 
used for scientific research; a buffer zone of 3,230 square 
kilometres (1,250 square miles) will accommodate for- 
estry, agriculture, animal husbandry and other uses; a 
reclamation or restoration zone of 700 square kilometres 
(270 square miles) will be used for research into ways of 
restoring the productivity and diversity of degraded 
ecosystems; and there will be a tourist zone. 

More than 100 species of mammal, 550 species of bird 
and 80 species of reptile and amphibian have been 
recorded in the proposed Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. 
Primates include the Hanuman langur (Presbytis entellus) 
and the bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata). Predators 
include tiger, leopard (Panthera pardus), wild dog, jackal 
(Canis aureus), striped hyena {Hyaena hyaena) and Indian 
fox ( Vulpes bengalensis). The Reserve's elephant (Elephas 
maximus) population stands at around 1,.500 animals. 
Most important among the hoofed mammals is the Nilgiri 
tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius) of which there are between 
400 and 450 in the Reserve. Rare birds include the great 
hornbill (Buceros bicornis) and the Ceylon frogmouth 
(Batrachostomus moniliger). Among reptiles, the mugger 
crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) has become rare due to 
poaching and habitat loss. 


Northeast India 

Rain forest once covered large areas of northeast India, but as the 
human population has increased, thousands of square kilometres 
of forest have been cleared and replaced with scrub jungle. 
Today, about 43.000 square kilometres (16,600 square miles) of 
rain forest still remain. Shifting agriculture, known locally as 
jhum. is common throughout the region. It was a sustainable form 
of land use when the local population was much smaller, but as 
the population pressure has increased the situation has deterior- 
ated. Lack of land has caused many farmers to shorten the fallow 
periods, and in consequence severe soil erosion can now be found 
over large areas. Up to 82,000 square kilometres (34,000 square 
miles) may be affected by jhum. Wood is an important source of 
fuel for 75 percent of India's people and its collection is another 
serious drain on forest resources. 

The surviving forests are confined to the Assam valley, the 
foothills of the eastern Himalaya, and the lower parts of the Naga 
hills in places where the annual rainfall exceeds 2,300 millimetres 
(90 inches) a year. Botanically, these forests are the richest in the 
Indian subcontinent. They also support a great diversity of 
mammal and bird species. 

The region covers more than 170,000 square kilometres (65,650 
square miles), but includes only four national parks and three 
wildlife sanctuaries, which protect a total of 1,880 square 
kilometres (725 square miles). Plans are being developed to boost 
this figure to more than 9,000 square kilometres (3,475 square 
miles), including 17 new parks and 50 new sanctuaries. 

Sri Lanka 

The rain forests of Sri Lanka are situated in the southwest of the 
island. Only one percent of the original natural vegetation 
remains, mainly in the mountains. The rain forests are poorer in 
species than those in the Western Ghats, but are nevertheless 


rich, composed of about 850 endemic plant species. Some of the 
island's trees are so rare as to be known from only one specimen. 
Because Sri Lanka is densely populated - there are 260 people 
per square kilometre (673 per square mile), but this is expected to 
rise to nearly 500 people per square kilometre (1,300 per square 
mile) by the year 2125 - the pressure on the rain forests is 
immense. Most lowland areas have already been transformed 
into rice fields and coconut plantations, and most hilly areas 
support teak plantations, tea and other crops. 


Once forested with mangroves, swamp forests and other tropical 
forests from the Ganges delta up into the hills, Bangladesh is now 
almost completely deforested. Less than five percent of the 
original rain and monsoon forest cover remains, and much of this 
is seriously degraded. The nation is one of the poorest countries 
in the world. Most people eke out a living from agriculture, and 
the population pressure on the land is immense, with 800 people 
per square kilometre (2,070 per square mile). Frighteningly, the 
population is expected to multiply two and a half times in the next 
100 years before levelling off. 

Bangladesh's largest rain forest is the Sundarbans, a vast 
coastal mangrove forest that covers more than 4,000 square 
kilometres (1,550 square miles). It grows on the silt deposited by 
the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers. Here the tiger still 
survives, but the nation has already lost most of its other large 
mammals, including the great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros 
unicornis), banteng, nilgai and swamp deer. Elephants survive 
only in small pockets of inland forests. 

Efforts are being made to develop a national conservation 
strategy that can save the few remaining forests from total 
destruction. There has been some success in replanting man- 
groves in the Sundarbans to replace those already lost. 


Terrorism threatens wildlife - 

The Manas Tiger Reserve is one 
of the largest and most important 
protected areas in Asia. It is 
home to 19 mammal species listed 
as threatened in the Indian 
Wildlife Protection Act. In 
February 1989 the reserve was 
invaded by Bodo extremists, part 
of a widespread political 
movement fighting for an 
independent state in 
northeastern India, and a large 
part of the Reserve, including the 
vital core area, was forcibly 
occupied. Thousands of trees 
have since been cut down for sale 
as timber, and the only known 
habitats for endangered species 
such as the hispid hare 
iCaprolagus hispidus) and pygmy 
hog {Sus salvanius) are now at 
risk. The Bodos also attacked 
ranger posts and oflBces, killing a 
forestry officer and at least 8 
wardens. By September 1989, 30 
of the 44 ranger posts and camps 
had been abandoned, and at least 
6 of the 80 great Indian 
rhinoceroses in the Reserve had 
been killed. Hundreds of deer 
and wild pigs are also believed 
to have been shot for food. 



Andaman and Nicobar 

Islands (right) - These 
islands are one of India's 3 
main tropical forest zones. 
The fauna and flora of the 
Andamans is similar to that 
found in Myanma while the 
Nicobars, with Great Nicobar 
only 90 km (56 miles) from 
Sumatra, have a much 
stronger Indonesian 
connection. Both island 
groups have endemic species 
and so are very important for 
conservation. Rain and 
monsoon forest still covers 
86°i of the total land area. 
Although relatively 
undisturbed, the forests are 
under growing pressure from 
human population growth. 
Since 1960, the population of 
the Andamans has grown 
from 50,000 to 200,000, and 
spreading agriculture 
together with logging has 

disturbed much of the natural 
vegetation. The remaining 
undisturbed forests on the 
Nicobar Islands are relatively 
small and under severe 
pressure, especially from rice 
farming. Originally, 4 tribal 
groups lived on the 
Andamans (the Andamanese, 
Onge, Jarawa and 
Sentinelese) and 2 groups on 
the Nicobars (the Shompens 
and Nicobarese). All of these 
groups are now in jeopardy, 
but by far the worst affected 
are the Andamanese. In 1858, 
their population stood at 
4,800, but contact with 
outsiders introduced diseases 
such as measles, pneumonia 
and syphilis, and today there 
are only 20 Andamanese left. 



6 "o 





GREAT /<fl &- 


20 40 60 80 100 150 

I ' I ' 'i ' ,• , ' 

50 100 ISO 200 kms 

□ Lowland Rain Forest 
(below 910m/3,000ft) 

■ Montane Rain Forest 
(above 910in/3,000ft) 

I [ Mangrove Forest 

Former Rain Forest 
I//| Protected Area (referred to in text) 


□ Lowland Rain Forest 

■ Montane Rain Forest 
(above 910in/3,000ftj 

j Mangrove Forest 

I I Former Rain Forest 

V/\ Protected Area (referred to in text. 

The Nam Choan Dam - On 4th 

April 1988 the Thai government 
decided to suspend plans to build 
the Nam Choan Dam. The dam's 
reservoir was to have cut 
through the heart of Thailand's 
largest wildlife sanctuary, Thung 
Yai Naresuan. Conservationists 
now hope that the government 
will push ahead with plans to 
make the sanctuary Thailand's 
first World Heritage Site. 















" ^ HANOll 

land Sout 



i )- ^ sy-/ 


















' A ' 


lephant ^ 
iuntains , 



of the 


Relic cattle - The kouprey is the 
most primitive of living cattle: it 
resembles species that lived 
600,000 years ago. Discovered by 
Western scientists only in 1937. 
the kouprey lives in Thailand, 
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. It 
is now perilously close to 
extinction; there are probably no 
more than a few hundred animals 
in the wild. 

True rain forest and drier seasonal (or monsoon) forest once 
covered most of Myanma (formerly Burma), Thailand, Cambodia. 
Laos, Vietnam and southern China. The two types graded into 
each other. The rain forest, where disturbed, developed charac- 
teristics of the monsoon forest, whereas the monsoon forest 
degraded into bamboo forest, or open woodland with grasses on 
the ground, particularly when subjected to regular burning. 
Human disturbance of the forests of mainland Southeast Asia has 
been so widespread, over such a long period of time, that it is 
doubtful if any untouched rain or monsoon forest still remains. 

Humans have lived in tropical Asia for up to a million years, 
and great civilizations have come and gone, leaving behind traces 
of their existence - for example, the twelfth-century monuments 
of Angkor Wat in Cambodia are a testament to the skill and power 
of the Khmer people. Originally, the inhabitants of the region 
were hunter-gatherers; but with the increasing use of fire, large- 
scale shifting cultivation became widespread. In the hills, 
shifting cultivators cleared vast areas of forest: while along the 
great rivers the once extensive freshwater swamp forests were 
long ago replaced by rice paddies. The drier monsoon forests were 
the first to go - the long dry season makes for better burning. 
From the end of the nineteenth century, when tea, coffee, rubber 
and oil palm were introduced, the rain forests came under 
pressure too. 

There is a long history of logging in the region. Inventories and 
working plans in Myanma date back to the 1850s, when the great 
teak forests began to be exploited. Right up until the end of World 
War II, most of the logs were extracted with the use of elephants, 
and the environmental impact was light. With the advent of 
chainsaws and mechanized extraction, the damage done to the 
forests has become far worse, even to the extent that the Asian 
elephant (Elephas maximus) is now in rapid decline. 

Much of the region's wildlife is now endangered as a result of 
the fragmentation and degradation of the rain forests. Although 
there is a very rich flora, it is also particularly vulnerable in that 
perhaps one-third of the 15.000 plant species are found only in this 
region. Important wild relatives of cultivated fruit trees include 
ten species of mango and many citrus species. Wild relatives of 
cattle are now a cause of great concern: the kouprey {Bos sauveli) 
is close to extinction, while the gaur {Bos gaurus) and banteng 
{Bos javanicus) are in decline. Birds too are suffering from the 
loss of their forest habitats. Vietnam has 34 threatened species 
including the Vietnam pheasant {Lophura hatinhensis). until 
recently known only from two specimens: meanwhile Thailand 
has 39 threatened species including Gurney's pitta (Pitta gur- 
neyi), feared extinct but recently rediscovered. 





In spite of its relatively low population density of 62 people per 
square kilometre (24 per square mile), Myanma has one of the 
highest deforestation rates in the world - it is losing two percent 
of its rain and monsoon forests every year. The main problem in 
this poverty-stricken and politically isolated country is that most 
people depend on forest lands for their livelihoods. Shifting 
cultivators have been forced to clear large areas of forest through 
the lack of an alternative way of supporting themselves. 

The rain forests are found on the west-facing slopes of the great 
mountain ranges, which stretch from north to south along the 
country's western and eastern frontiers. In general, the areas 
used for logging have been protected by the Forest Department 
and remain as forest. However, in the frontier areas there is an 
increasing amount of both legal and illegal logging taking place. 
Following the Thai government's ban on logging in 1989, many 
Thai entrepreneurs have turned to Myanma as a source of teak 
( Tectona grandis) and other tropical hardwoods. In February that 
year, 20 logging concessions were set up along the Thai border, 
and perhaps a further 20 by the end of the year. The initial 20 are 
legally allowed to export more than 200,000 tonnes (175,000 US 
tons) of logs to feed Thailand's timber mills, worth US$112 
million a year to Myanma - a regular bonanza for a country with 
little export business. It seems unlikely that the Forest Depart- 
ment will be able to ensure that these logging concessions are 
exploited sustainably, and that massive degradation can in due 
course be avoided. 


Thailand is one of the wealthiest and most stable countries in the 
region. Much of its wealth was accumulated through exploita- 
tion of its own forests and other natural resources; but by 1967, 
Thailand was a net importer of timber. About 15 percent of the 
country remains covered in rain forest; a further six percent by 
monsoon forest- less than half of the nation's original resources. 
Disputes over the future of logging in the country came to a head 
in 1988, when 450 people were killed and hundreds more made 
homeless by floods caused by deforestation. A total logging ban 
was imposed shortly afterwards. 

Thailand has a large protected area system with 59 national 
parks (and a further 21 proposed), 28 wildlife sanctuaries and 1 18 
non-hunting areas. However, there are serious management 
problems since there is not enough money to maintain the system. 
Lowland forests are poorly represented and even the existing 
protected areas continue to be logged and used by people who rely 
on shifting cultivation. 


Cambodia's fertile plains, productive fisheries and valuable 
forests have been exploited by several great kingdoms, including 
the Khmer empire. These dynasties cleared most of the forests in 
the centre of the country, whereas the uplands were left 
untouched until the 1970s, when the Vietnam war spilled over 
into Cambodia, leading to 20 years of disruption. Hard facts on 
the extent and rate of deforestation are hard to come by, but 
Cambodia is still suffering from the environmental effects of the 
Vietnam war and subsequent civil war. Between 1974 and 1978, 
the ruling Khmer Rouge Party systematically slaughtered most 
of Cambodia's educated and professional classes. Apart from the 
appalling loss of human life, this has resulted in a shortage of 
expertise in many fields, including forestry. 

Extensive rain forests are still to be found in the Elephant and 
Cardamomes mountains, particularly on the western slopes 
where there are very few people. In the east, the mountains 
suffered extensive defoliation and bombing by the Americans 
during the Vietnam war because one of the main supply routes to 
Vietnam, the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail, passed through here. 
Since then, they have been further damaged by the activities of 
shifting cultivators. 


There are rain forests in the central mountainous regions of Laos, 
including parts of the Bolovens plateau. In the lowlands, rain 
forests occur in small patches on the Mekong River plain. The 
greatest threat to Laotian forests is shifting cultivation; logging, 
mining and civil engineering projects have so far done relatively 
little damage. However, the improved national road network, due 
to be completed in the 1990s, will provide greater access for 
loggers and is likely to cause further deforestation. Felling has 
been poorly controlled in the past, and the lack of a coherent 
management system is likely to mean that logging will become a 
major threat in the future. 

Laos is unusual in having no protected areas. A 47,000 square- 
kilometre (18,000 square-mile) system has been proposed by lUCN, 
including the 1,438 square-kilometre (555 square-mile) Xe Plane 
protected area in the south, said to contain the tiger (Panthera 
tigris). the kouprey, the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) 
and other endangered species. 


Almost 90 percent of Vietnam was once covered by rain and 
monsoon forest. By 1943, this had declined to around 43 percent. 
Today, less than 19 percent of the country is still forested and 
more than 40 percent is classified as wasteland. Extensive areas 
had been cleared in coastal regions and in the Mekong and Red 
River floodplains. From 1945 to 1975, almost uninterrupted 
warfare resulted in the destruction of most of the remaining 
forest and farmland (see box), giving rise to a new word - ecocide. 
Vietnam began to establish a system of protected areas in 1962, 
and it is estimated that there is room for up to 87 reserves. 
However, the forests are so isolated that forest corridors between 
reserves are essential to prevent a reduction in the biodiversity. 

The end of logging in Thailand? 

In January 1989 a royal decree banning all logging was 
issued in Thailand. This pioneering move followed a 
disastrous landslide resulting from the expansion of 
government-subsidized rubber plantations, often on 
slopes too steep to support them. In one such case 
thousands of tons of mud and cut logs slid down the side of 
a mountain and buried several villages. Thailand was 
widely lauded in the international press for introducing 
the ban, but there is abundant evidence to suggest that 
illegal logging is still widespread. Small-scale cutting has 
increased as the large timber companies withdraw from 
their concessions, and thousands of people have been 
charged with logging offences. An additional problem is 
that logging companies are still being permitted to remove 
those logs cut, or said to have been cut, before January 
1989. Many loggers anticipated the ban weeks before its 
introduction and in the ensuing scramble to maximize 
profit, carried out felling round-the-clock. Further 
damage to forest habitats has since resulted from the 
cutting of new roads in order to remove the felled trees. 

The most worrying aspect of the logging ban is that it 
does not appear to reflect any fundamental change of 
attitude on the part of the Thai government towards the 
use of tropical hardwoods. Laos has been a major source of 
timber for Thailand for some years, but since the ban 
Thailand has hurried to sign an agreement with the 
Myanma government to increase the volume of wood 
imported. Deals were struck in order to justify the large 
investment in sawmills that had been made when logging 
was still permitted in Thailand. Therefore, in spite of the 
ban, the mills around Bangkok are still awash with rain 
forest timber. 



Today nearly 80% of the Mekong delta's mangrove forest has been replanted. 

Replanting Vietnam 

Vietnam is facing one of its biggest challenges since the 
Vietnam war ended in 1975. That challenge is monumen- 
tal: American and Vietnamese scientists estimate that 
22,000 square kilometres (8,500 square miles) of forest and 
one-fifth of the country's farmland were affected as a 
direct result of bombing, mechanized land clearing and 
defoliation. The mangrove forests proved to be particu- 
larly susceptible to chemical defoliants, such as Agent 
Orange, and were more seriously damaged than any other 
forest type. 

Surprisingly, more forest has been lost since 1975 than 
during the war. Post-war logging operations for the 
rebuilding of homes, schools, hospitals, roads and irriga- 
tion systems, accounted for the initial loss. Shifting 
cultivation, commercial logging for export, fuelwood 
collection and forest fires added an additional toll. 
Vietnam annually loses about 3,000 square kilometres 
(1,150 square miles) of forest. 

Despite these setbacks, the Vietnamese people have 
begun to tackle the task of "regreening" their country 
with an enthusiasm that is unmatched in Southeast Asia. 

Ever since Vietnam launched its National Conservation 
Strategy in 1986, the country has been engaged in a 
massive reafforestation campaign. The annual Tree Plant- 
ing Tet, a lunar new year celebration started by President 
Ho Chi Minh, sets the entire nation in motion towards 
meeting its goal of planting at least 500 million trees a 
year. Eventually, Vietnam hopes to bring its forest cover 
back up to 50 percent of the country. 

Vietnam's Ministry of Education has also made tree 
planting one of its curricular activities, requiring that 
every pupil plant a tree and maintain it. In 1985 and 1986, 
Vietnamese students planted 52 million trees and set up 
more than 8,100 square kilometres (3,100 square miles) of 
tree nurseries. Shortly after the war ended, Vietnamese 
scientists attempted to replant indigenous trees in areas 
formerly covered with moist tropical forest, but the young 
saplings were burned up in grass fires during the dry 
season. To protect the seedlings and provide them with 
shade, the scientists established a canopy of acacia and 
eucalyptus under which several species of dipterocarps 
are now thriving. 


Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra 

The rain forests of the 11 peninsular states of Malaysia are 
characteristically tall in stature and rich in species. Much of the 
region's great biological diversity is concentrated in the low- 
lands: more than half of the 200 species of land mammal are found 
only below 330 metres (1,100 feet). As almost all Malayan wildlife 
depends on the forests, the lowland forests are by far the most 
important habitats for conservation, particularly for the larger, 
hoofed mammals such as the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus 
sumatrensis) and the Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus). 

Over the past 20 years there has been widespread conversion of 
lowland forest into settlements, plantations and other forms of 
cultivation. The rate of forest loss between 1986 and 1990 was 
estimated to be 950 square kilometres (370 square miles) per 
annum, or about 1.6 percent a year. Logging is relatively well 
managed, and logged forest provides a haven for a lot of wildlife, 
while some of the most important areas are protected reserves. 

Sumatra is losing its rain forests 

faster than any other Indonesian 


Sumatra is the second largest island in the Indonesian 
archipelago. It has extensive areas of lush, species-rich rain 
forest. Dipterocarp trees dominate the lowland forests, forming a 
near continuous canopy over a diversity of plants matching that 
found in Borneo and New Guinea. Among the most famous of the 
plants are the amazing Amorphophallus titanum (the world's 
tallest flower) and Rafflesia arnoldii (the world's broadest flower), 
which was originally described as "the greatest prodigy of the 
vegetable world". The fauna of Sumatra is one of the richest in 
the archipelago, and includes 196 species of mammal, 22 of which 
are endemic. 

The wealth and productivity of the Sumatran forests - some 
dipterocarp forests can yield more than 100 cubic metres of 
excellent logs per hectare (320 cubic yards per acre) ~ make them 
particularly attractive to loggers. At 3.3 percent a year, Sumatra 
also has one of the highest population growth rates in Indonesia. 
As a result, Sumatra is losing its rain forests faster than any other 
Indonesian island. 

The importance of diet 

Logged forest is often thought to be of little use in the 
conservation of wildlife. Although it is true that many 
species are adversely affected by selective logging, and 
some cannot survive even the slightest disturbance, a 
large number are able to maintain viable populations in 
logged forests. In the forests near Sungai Tekam in 
Peninsular Malaysia, the ability of a number of primates 
to inhabit logged areas appears to be linked to the animals' 
ability to change its diet. The lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) 
and the banded leaf monkey (Presbytis melalophos) both 
increase the proportion of young leaves in their diets when 
living in logged forest. Young leaves are particularly 
abundant in this habitat as a response to the increased 
amount of light. However, not all primate species are this 
flexible, and specialist feeders are particularly vulnerable. 
The proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus), which lives in 
riverine and mangrove forests in Borneo and feeds on only 
a few tree species, is very sensitive to any disturbance of 
its habitat. The orang-utan (Pongo pygmaeus) is also 
unable to tolerate the disturbance caused by logging. 

Endau-Rompin: state versus government 

Although conservation is a national issue in Peninsular 
Malaysia, relevant policies developed and implemented by 
the government, natural resource management and ex- 
ploitation are carried out by individual state authorities. 
The difficulties posed by this are well illustrated by the 
Endau-Rompin controversy. In the early 1970s a commit- 
tee, which included representatives from both the govern- 
ment and the state authorities, recommended the creation 
of a national park in the Endau-Rompin wilderness, which 
is shared by the states of Pahang and Johor. The 
importance of this wilderness lies in the fact that once 
existing agricultural development programmes have been 
fully implemented, its lowland forests will be the last 
refuge for some of the most threatened animal species in 
the region, among them the Sumatran rhinoceros and the 
tiger {Panthera tigris). In 1977, the Pahang state govern- 
ment granted logging rights in its section of the proposed 
park. This was countered by a well organized campaign, 
headed by the Malay Nature Society, to save the wilder- 
ness. As a result, logging ceased in 1978 and now major 
protected areas have been set up by both state authorities; 
but a national park has still not been established. 

Raiding elephants - One of the 
major problems facing tlie Asian 
elephant {Elephas maximus) in 
Sumatra is habitat 
fragmentation. Logging, and the 
conversion of rain forest to 
agriculture, often leaves small 
numbers of elephants marooned 
in isolated forest islands, from 
which they then raid the 
surrounding fields. Crops such as 
sugar cane and rice are 
particularly attractive to the 
elephants. More recently, the 
Indonesian government has 
moved thousands of people from 
the islands of Java, Madura and 
Bali to Sumatra as part of its 
transmigration programme, 
creating villages along the edges 
of the forest areas where 
elephants are found. This has 
resulted in territorial conflicts 
between the villagers and the 
elephants, and today many 
elephants bear the scars of 
wounds caused by the guns used 
to drive them from the crops. 

Isolated primates - The 

Mentawai group of islands has 
been separated from Sumatra by 
a deep marine trough since the 
middle of the Pleistocene epoch, 
about a million years ago. In 
effect, the Mentawai have been 
oceanic islands for about 500,000 
years, their flora and fauna 
evolving in isolation. This has 
produced many endemic plants 
and animals, including 4 primate 
species: Kloss's gibbon (Hylobates 
klossii). the Mentawai leaf 
monkey (Presbytis poiemiani). 
the Mentawai macaque (Macaco 
pagensis) and the pig-tailed 
langiir (Simias concolor). 


Andaman Sea 

Gulf of 


The rare Sumatran rhino - 

The Sumatran rhinoceros is 
among the most endangered 
animals in the world: there are 
no more than 500 animals left in 
the wild. Its decline has been 
caused hy over-hunting, mainly 
for the supposed medicinal 
products derived from the 
animal's horn, which some 
believe can cure impotence. The 
remaining rhinoceroses, which 
survive in small, isolated 
populations mainly in Sumatra 
and Peninsular Malaysia, are 
further threatened by logging 
operations and the expanding 
human population, both of which 
are intruding into the once 
remote areas that they inhabit. 



The Philippines and Sabah 

The Philippines is an archipelago of about 7,100 islands, only 462 
of which exceed 2.5 square kilometres (one square mile) in area. 
The two largest islands, Luzon and Mindanao, together cover 
200,000 square kilometres (77,200 square miles) or 68 percent of 
the total land surface. There are approximately 12,000 plant 
species in the Philippines (3,700 of which are endemic), most of 
them occurring in rain forests. Many of the endemic plants have 
been collected by scientists only once or twice, and because 
recent efforts by botanists to find them in their original forest 
habitats have failed, some are now presumed extinct. 

Whereas forests covered most of the archipelago at the 
beginning of this century, and still two-thirds of it in 1945, they 
now cover only one-fifth of the country or about 64,600 square 
kilometres (24,950 square miles), mostly in disturbed or degraded 
form. Almost all the remaining forest is in the uplands, but even 
this is threatened by the widespread demand that exists through- 
out the country for more agricultural land. The most valuable 
forests, both commercially and biologically, are the mature 
dipterocarp formations. These now cover an area of only 10,000 
square kilometres (3,850 square miles) and are expected to be 
logged out by the year 2000. 

At present, there are 59 reserves in the Philippines, covering a 
total area of 4,100 square kilometres (1,600 square miles). If 
accepted, a new plan would reduce the number of reserves to 28, 
but at the same time increase the total area protected to 6,450 
square kilometres (2,500 square miles). 


Almost all the remaining forest in 

the Philippines is in the uplands, but 

even this is threatened . . . 

Monkey-eating eagle The 

Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga 
jefferyi), also known as the 
monkey-eating eagle, is 
currently found only on the 
islands of Luzon, Samar. Leyte 
and Mindanao. Despite its name, 
it only occasionally catches 
monkeys, its usual prey being a 
wide variety of rain forest 
animals and birds. The total 
eagle population is now 
estimated at fewer than 200 birds. 
In the past, hunting and trapping 
contributed to the species" 

decline, but deforestation is now 
the main threat because it is 
reducing suitable habitat to such 
an extent that breeding is being 
disrupted. Even the eagle's 
largest stronghold, in the forests 
of the Sierra Madre mountains in 
northeast Luzon, is threatened by 
deforestation. The Philippine 
Eagle Conservation Programme, 
started in 1969 with the support 
of the famous aviator Charles 
Lindbergh, has helped to focus 
international attention on the 
plight of this magnificent raptor. 

Montane forest on the island of Luzon 


The Malaysian state of Sabah occupies the northern tip of the 
island of Borneo. In 1953 more than 86 percent of the state was 
covered in forest, but 30 years later that proportion was down to 
63 percent, and today only 41 percent or 30,000 square kilometres 
(11,600 square miles) is still covered. By 1980, essentially all of 
Sabah's productive and accessible forests had been logged, with 
the exception of some conservation areas. Any citizen can gain 
title to forested land in Sabah by clearing and working it; so as 
logging opened up previously inaccessible sites, settlers 
followed, clearing the logged forest and claiming the land. About 
11,000 square kilometres (4,250 square miles) or 15 percent of 
Sabah is affected in this way. 


Managing Palawan island 

The island of Palawan is 425 km 
(265 miles) long, and has a 
central spine of forested 
mountains and narrow coastal 
plains, fringed by mangroves and 
coral reefs. The forests, although 
largely intact, are steadily giving 
way to logging, mining and 
uncontrolled agricultural 
expansion. The island is 
ecologically very fragile, and 
without careful planning there 
will be severe environmental 
degradation and impoverishment 
of the people living there. A 
recent survey concluded that a 
network of protected areas would 
not be sufficient to prevent 
environmental deterioration, 
mainly because it would not 
receive the support of local 
communities. Instead, it was 
proposed that a graded system of 
protective management should be 
introduced over the whole of 

Palawan. Some areas would be — 
under strict control (to protect 
watersheds, preserve biodiversity 
and protect tribal peoples), while 
others would be left relatively 
unregulated. There would also be 
areas dedicated to research, 
tourism and recreation. In this 
way the local community would 
be involved at all levels of the 
management system. 



S A R A W A 

"Desert" island - The island of 
Cebu, which is at the 
geographical centre of the 
Philippines, is an ecological 
disaster. Once covered with rain 
forests, ii has now been 
completely deforested. The city of 
Cebu, the largest town on the 
island having a population of 2 
million people, periodically 
experiences acute water 
shortages because of the 
condition of the surrounding 

Mt Apo One of the few 

remaining montane rain forests 
in the PhiUppines is found on the 
slopes of Mt Apo on the island of 
Mindanao. The inaccessibility of 
the region has been one of the 
major factors in its survival. 

The multipurpose rattan 

Rattans are climbing palms 
which serve as the main raw 
material in the manufacture of 
cane furniture. They are also 
used to make fish traps, sleeping 
mats, hammocks, hats, walking 
sticks, toothbrushes and twine. 
The young shoots of most 
Philippine species are edible. The 

apexes of 2 species, Daemonorops 
melanochaetes and Daemonorops 
hallieriana, are cooked with fish 
and coconut milk and served as a 
dish for important guests. The 
juice from the fruits of the rattan 
may be used as a dye or as 
medicine for the treatment of 
rheumatism, asthma, snake bites 
and various intestinal disorders. 
There are about 69 species of 
rattan in the Philippines, and of 
these 10 are commercially 
harvested. The local rattan 
industry employs about 10.000 
people. But as a result of over- 
harvesting, it has now become 
necessary for the Philippines to 
import raw, unworked rattan 
poles from other Southeast Asian 
countries. In the past, rattan 
products were an important 
source of foreign exchange, but 
the recent ban on cane exports by 
Indonesia has caused serious 
shortages of raw materials. 






Red-vented cockatoo 

Birds of the Philippines 

Of the 540 or so bird species found in the Philippines, 388 
breed there, 119 are migrants passing through, and 34 are 
irregular visitors. Most of the breeding species originally 
came from Malaysia; a few arrived instead from China, 
Sulawesi. Maluku and New Guinea. At least 162 of these 
are endemic. Most of the birds live in the forests and are 
sensitive to any disturbance, whether from logging or 
slash-and-burn cultivators. For example, a recent survey 
on the island of Cebu found that only one of the original 
ten forest species had survived the logging in the area. In 
addition, many birds, including pigeons, doves and horn- 
bills, are caught for food. Yet others are trapped for the 
caged bird market. The red-vented cockatoo (Cacatua 
haematuropygia) and various members of the parrot family 
have been particularly badly affected. 

It is estimated by the International Council for Bird 
Preservation that as many as 34 species may be immedi- 
ately threatened by habitat destruction, hunting or 
trapping. Some of these species, such as the Negros fruit 
dove (Ptilinopus arcanus) and Mindoro scops owl {Otus 
mindorensis), have only ever been found in the localities 
where they were originally discovered. Others, including 
the Mindoro imperial pigeon {Ducula mindorensis), have 
not been seen by ornithologists for many years. 



Japan's search for hardwoods 

Japan first imported Philippine "mahogany" (actually 
timber from dipterocarp trees) in 1951. These imports were 
intended to complement domestic hardwoods for plywood 
manufacture. Logging to meet Japan's need increased 
steadily throughout the 1950s and, driven by profits and 
mechanized harvesting, the Philippine timber boom conti- 
nued during the 1960s, peaking in 1969. As the boom 
gained momentum, the government was unable to super- 
vise concessions effectively or to enforce logging regula- 
tions. Links between timber companies and politicians 
further eroded government control. In the early 1970s 
exports started to decline after the more accessible 
dipterocarp forests had been exploited; the remaining 
sources were not only more expensive -to log but also of a 
lower quality. At the same time, heightened conservation 
awareness in the Philippines prompted an initiative to 
curb timber exports through a variety of forest protection 
ordinances. In 1976 logging was banned in parts of Luzon, 
Catanduanes, Masbate, Leyte and Negros as well as on all 
small islands; but effective implementation of the law has 
been limited by short-term political considerations, and 
illegal timber smuggling continues to be a problem. 

As the supply of hardwoods from the Philippines 
declined, the shortfall was taken up by Indonesia, as the 
province of Kalimantan was opened up to logging. By 
1971, Indonesia had already replaced the Philippines as 
Japan's largest log supplier. Within three years Indonesia 
was supplying 47 percent of Japanese tropical log imports. 
Many Japanese trading companies had entered into joint 
ventures with Indonesian concerns, just as they had done 

(Above) Much of the imported tropical timber ends up on waste tips. 

a decade earlier in the Philippines. But the logging in 
Indonesia was on a grander scale because it had been 
planned in advance, as a result of cooperation between the 
Japanese government and timber corporations. 

Malaysia had taken over from Indonesia as Japan's 
main supplier of tropical logs as early as 1978. During that 
year, Malaysia exported 10.7 million cubic metres (380 
million cubic feet) of hardwood to Japan, which repre- 
sented 49 percent of Japanese tropical log imports. 

Malaysia can be divided into three main timber produ- 
cing regions. In Peninsular Malaysia there is a near total 
ban on log exports, so timber exports consist mostly of 
sawn wood. All Malaysian log supplies come from the 
Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, which have their 
own forestry departments and logging regulations. Jap- 
anese imports from Sabah peaked in 1978 at 9.2 million 
cubic metres (325 million cubic feet). But this level was not 
sustained for long and by 1987 imports had fallen to 
around seven million cubic metres (250 million cubic feet). 

Today, Japan still gets half of its hardwood logs from 
Sabah. Much of the rest comes from Sarawak, whose 
exports to Japan have been growing steadily and have now 
reached 5.5 million cubic metres (195 million cubic feet) a 
year. The authorities in Sabah and Sarawak have repeat- 
edly pledged that they will continue to supply Japan with 
a steady flow of logs. Japanese traders are nevertheless 
constantly on the lookout for new sources of supply . Other 
Asian countries currently supplying Japan with logs 
include Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, 
Myanma (Burma) and Vietnam. 

{Above) Tropical woods are often used in the construction of new homes. 


Central Indonesia 

M A 










° Archipelago 


C e I e b e 




The Indonesian archipelago with its 13,667 islands is one of the 
most biologically valuable places on earth. Nearly ten percent of 
the world's rain forest and almost 40 percent of all the rain forest 
in Asia is to be found there. Indonesia covers only 1.3 percent of 
the world's land surface, but it is one of the richest areas of 
endemism and species diversity, having more than 500 mammal 
species (nearly 200 of which are endemic), 1,500 bird species (17 
percent of the world's total avifauna), 7,000 species offish, 1,000 
species of reptile and amphibian, tens of thousands of inverte- 
brates and more then 20,000 plant species, including more than 
10.000 tree species. 

Despite its global significance, Indonesia is second only to 
Brazil in the rate at which its forests are being converted to 
agricultural and other uses. Recent estimates have put the rate of 
deforestation at 7,000 square kilometres (2,700 square miles) a 
year, but the real figure may be as high as 12,000 square 
kilometres (4.600 square miles). Nonetheless, extensive rain 
forests still survive on all the large islands except Java, and 
Indonesia as a whole still has more than 1.1 million square 
kilometres (425,000 square miles) of rain forest. Increasingly, 
these forests are being disturbed by logging (which can be very 
destructive in this part of the world), shifting cultivation (which 
is believed to affect 112,000 square kilometres (43.000 square 
miles) in Kalimantan alone), and the government-sponsored 
development of tree plantations and transmigration programme. 


JAVA ^='~=27cP2J cy^s' -S^^ 

International BALI ^^ ^-^TIM' 

Boundaries ' o 

rc^\ Percentage of transmigrants relocated 
■^ ineacharea(1950-l986l 

The Indonesian transmigration programme (see page 41) is the 
world's largest programme for voluntary, government-assisted 
migration. However, dramatic reductions in the Indonesian 
budget, resulting from the fall in oil prices in the mid-1980s, have 
led to a virtual standstill in the movement of new transmigrants 
since 1987. This lull has provided an unexpected opportunity to 
improve the planning of future transmigration. 

Central Indonesia can be divided into five biogeographical 
areas; Java, Kalimantan, the Lesser Sunda Islands. Sulawesi and 
the Moluccas (also known as Maluku). 


Java is one of the most densely populated islands in the world. 
More than 90 percent of its natural vegetation has been 
destroyed, and most of the remaining primary forest is now found 
only in remote mountainous regions above 1,400 metres (4,600 
feet). Virtually all the lowland rain forest has been cleared for 
farming and tree plantations, but a few isolated fragments 
remain, the largest being along the southeast coast. 

Despite such massive deforestation, the island of Java still 
boasts 50 surviving Javan rhinoceroses (Rhinoceros sondaicus) in 
the Ujung Kulon National Park. However, tigers (Panthera 
tigris) may now be extinct in their last stronghold, the Meru 
Betiri Reserve in the east of the island. 

Lesser Sunda Islands 

The rain forests of the Lesser Sunda Islands (also known as Nusa 
Tenggara) are far less lush than those in the rest of Indonesia. The 

region has a low annual rainfall, which makes the rain forests 
particularly vulnerable to fire during the dry season. 

Although the population pressure is not as high as in other 
parts of the Indonesian archipelago - the Lesser Sunda Islands 
has 70 people per square kilometre (27 per square mile) - the forest 
is often burned (often for no obvious reason) and this has caused 
massive deforestation. 


Kalimantan, which covers the southern half of the island of 
Borneo, supports one of the largest expanses of tropical rain 
forest in Southeast Asia. The region contributed more than any 
other part of Indonesia to the US$2.5 billion that the country 
gained from exporting timber in 1987, and it continues to do the 
same today. Much of the forest has been heavily disturbed or 
degraded, and the roads made by the loggers tend to be used by 
shifting cultivators. 

Between September 1982 and July 1983 more than 40,000 square 
kilometres (15,400 square miles) of tropical forest on the island of 
Borneo was devastated by drought and fire. Of this area, some 83 
percent belonged to Kalimantan. The conflagration is believed to 
have been started by shifting cultivators who were unaware of 
the risk of using fire to clear land during a drought. It was able to 
spread quickly into selectively logged areas, where dry combust- 
ible material from tree extraction littered the forest floor, and 
also into peat swamps, where the dried surface soil burned 
fiercely. Fire is a natural part of the ecosystem and there are 
already signs of recovery, but full regeneration will take a very 
long time because of the scale of the fire (which was not 
immediately appreciated by local authorities). 

Kalimantan's fauna contains at least 40 endemic mammals, 
mostly among the bats and rodents, and is famous for its 
populations of orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus), proboscis mon- 
keys (Nasalis larvatus), gibbons (Hylobates spp.) and other 
primates, its avifauna which includes such colourful birds as 
hornbills. pittas and barbets. as well as 30 endemic species, and its 
reptile and fish fauna, thought to be the richest in the region. 


On the island of Sulawesi there are stilf large areas of primary 
rain forest, despite the fact that shifting cultivators have cleared 
significant areas in the south and some parts of the north of the 
island. In 1980 about 55 percent of Sulawesi was forested and 
today the forest cover per inhabitant is still greater than in 
Sumatra, Java or the Lesser Sunda Islands. However, of all 
Indonesia's principal islands, Sulawesi is the one most threat- 
ened by the effects of rapid development. Between 1977 and 1980, 
almost 40,000 migrants arrived on Sulawesi from Java as part of 
Indonesia's transmigration programme, and these migrants now 
occupy more than 4,700 square kilometres (1,800 square miles) of 
former rain forest. The Dumoga-Bone National Park is the most 
important conservation area in Sulawesi. More than 90 percent 
of it is covered in rain forest at altitudes between 500 and 2,000 
metres (1,600 and 6,500 feet), and all of Sulawesi's protected 
mammals are present. The park is also extremely rich in birds 
and, although detailed surveys have yet to be carried out, 170 
species have already been recorded. 

The Moluccas 

The Moluccas is an archipelago of hundreds of islands ranging 
greatly in size. The largest tracts of rain forest are found on the 
islands of Halmahera and Seram. But timber concessions have 
been granted on both these islands, and much of the lowland 
forest has already been disturbed. 

The fauna of the Moluccas shows a very high level of endemism 
among birds and mammals, particularly among the bats and 
rodents, and contains many larger mammals including deer, 
monkeys, civets and phalangers. The avifauna includes about 460 
species of birds, some 30 percent of which are also endemic. 



Chick emerging after underground hatching. 

Rotting incubators 

Megapodes are mound-building birds which do not depend 

on their own body heat to incubate their eggs or young. 
Instead, they use the heat generated by rotting vegetation 
to do the job. Standing on one leg and scratching 
backwards with the other, megapodes rake together a 
huge heap of vegetation on the forest floor, piling up a 
roughly conical mound about 1.5 metres (five feet) high 
and about six metres (20 feet) in diameter. After the 
vegetation has started to rot and generate heat, the nest is 
ready. The female then climbs on the mound, digs a hole, 
and deposits a single egg. She covers the hole up again, 
leaves the nest and returns the next day to lay another egg. 
Each female lays from five to eight pale-pink eggs. 

Pork hordes after moveable feast 

A key feature of the rain forest of inland Borneo is their "fruiting 
seasons", during which many different trees produce their fruit 
and seed at the same time. These seasons are probably triggered 
by an external cue, such as a water shortage, and they tend to be 
quite short and unpredictable, with no guarantee that one will 
happen in any particular year or at any particular time of the 
year. During one such season, the trees in different localities tend 
to fruit at slightly different times, creating a moveable feast. A 
consequence of this is that the fruit and seed eaters of the forest 
have difficulty in matching their population levels to the food 
supply. Under these circumstances they tend to become nomadic, 
or to be highly mobile within an large home range. 

The bearded pig (,Sus barbatus), which is the only wild pig in 
Borneo, has a very diverse diet including roots, fungi, soil insects 
and rotting wood, small vertebrates and carrion. It also eats 
fallen fruit produced by a number of tree species, especially oaks, 
chestnuts and dipterocarps. During a fruiting season large herds 
of pigs move through the forest in search of ripe fruit. Such 
activity was well documented in the upper Baram River area of 
Sarawak in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and similar patterns were 
subsequently reported by local residents during 1986 and 1987. In 
1983 the travelling pig population probably exceeded one million 
animals. This horde of pork was extensively plundered. The 
people of the Baram are heavily armed and enthusiastic hunters. 
In a sample of 581 families, each possessed on average two spears 
or spear-blowpipes and three hunting dogs, and every other 
family had a shotgun. During 1983, as the pigs crossed the Baram 
and Silat Rivers, each of the 577 families on these rivers killed an 
average of 33 pigs. Allowing for the killing of stragglers outside 
the main migration, at least 20,000 pigs were slaughtered as the 
migrating wave-front rolled over the Baram and Silat in 1983, or 
roughly eight percent of the travelling population. 




I N D O N E S I A 


A r a f u r a 



T R A L I 



New Guinea 

- New tree kangaroo - In 1988. a 
new species of tree kangaroo was 
discovered in West Sepik 
province. Papua New Guinea. 
The black tree kangaroo 
(Dendrolagus ursinus). known 
locally as tenkile, is believed to 
be restricted to a 35 sq-km (14 sq- 
mile) mossy forest high up in the 
Torricelli mountains. 

Admiralty Islands 




Crocodile ranching - New 

Guinea has 2 crocodile species - 
the freshwater species Crocodylus 
novaeguineae, and the more 
widely distributed, saltwater or 
estuarine crocodile, Crocodylus 
porosus - which are hunted in the 
wild for their skins. Although 
most of the crocodile industry is 
based on hunting, there is also a 
wide variety of crocodile 
ranching operations. These range 
in size from small village pens, 
which might hold no more than 
25 crocodiles, to large 
commercial ranches with up to 
15,000 animals. Skins from these 
ranches are making up an ever 
increasing percentage of the 
country's crocodile skin exports. 


\j) IRELAND 4---^ 


S o I o m 

Trobriand Islands 

The matchmaker bird - In the 

Siwi-Utame Wildhfe 
Management Area it is forbidden 
to hunt the MacGregor's 
bowerbird (Amblyornis 
macgregoriae). It is not that this 
species is wanted for food or for 
the pet trade - it is because the 
local people believe that the bird 
can assist them in selecting a 
marriage partner. But the risks 
associated with selecting a wife 
in this way are high: the penalty 
for catching or killing one of 
these birds can be a prison 

fe.^ D'Entrecasteaux 
Yyj Islands 

20 40 60 80 100 150 milea 

I ^-H h — ' H . ' 

50 100 150 200 kms 

□ Lowland Ram Forest 
(below 1 .400m/4.500ft ) 

Montane Rain Forest 
(above l,400in/4.500ftl 

Hb Mangrove Forest 

Former Ram Forest 
fVJ Protected Area (referred to in text) 

° ^ 



The island of New Guinea contains the largest expanse of rain 
forest in Southeast Asia - some 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 
square miles) in total - and the world's largest reserves of the sago 
palm (Metroxylon sagu). About 80-85 percent of the forest in Irian 
Jaya, the western half of the island of New Guinea, and 75-80 
percent of that in Papua New Guinea is still undisturbed, and vast 
areas of the interior have yet to be explored. In terms of plant 
diversity and species endemism in Southeast Asia, New Guinea is 
second only to Borneo. 

The major vegetation types are mangrove, swamp forest, 
lowland and montane rain forest, eucalyptus woodland, alpine 
shrub and savanna grassland. Unlike the forests of Kalimantan 
and Sumatra, dipterocarps are not the dominant trees in the rain 
forest canopy: instead, other large timber trees are common, 
including Intsia spp. and Calophyllum spp. in the lowlands, and 
Agathis spp. and Araucaria spp. at higher altitudes. The mamma- 
lian fauna contains some Australian elements, including several 
marsupials such as phalangers and tree kangaroos. New Guinea 
is also famous for its splendid avifauna, in particular its birds of 
paradise, crowned pigeons, cassowaries, cockatoos and parrots. 

Because 97 percent of the land is controlled by local communi- 
ties, the development of conventional national parks and 
reserves has proved difficult. Instead, wildlife management areas 
have been introduced in an attempt to promote conservation by 
using traditional methods of resource management. In these 
areas the land remains in the possession of the customary 
landowners who form their own management committees to 
protect the wildlife within their territory. In 1986, there were 12 
wildlife management areas, occupying 6.800 square kilometres 
(2,600 square miles) of land and approximately 1,100 square 
kilometres (425 square miles) of marine and coastal resources. 

There have always been traditional methods of environmental 
management and conservation. A mixture of traditional rules 
and taboos have helped to protect certain species and places. 
Temporary bans on hunting and fishing often prevented over- 
exploitation and ensured sustainable yields. Access to particular 
sites, such as the trees in which birds of paradise display, was 
guarded from outsiders. These forms of traditional conservation 
continue to exist in many parts of Papua New Guinea, but as 
human pressure increases, new protective measures are needed. 

In terms of plant diversity and 

species endemism in Southeast Asia, 

New Guinea is second only to 


Irian Jaya 

The easternmost province of Indonesia, Irian Jaya, shares a 
common border of 736 kilometres (457 miles) with Papua New 
Guinea. It has roughly 3-50,000 square kilometres (135,000 square 
miles) of rain and monsoon forest. The rain forest covers Irian 
Jaya with the exception of the southeast of the province, which 
lies in the rain shadow of the Pegunungan Maoke mountains and 
supports drier savanna woodlands. Although the human popula- 
tion of Irian Jaya is still relatively small (1.1 million people), 
there is increasing pressure on the land to use it for agriculture 
(as part of Indonesia's transmigration prograrrmie) and timber 
and mineral extraction. The Indonesian government is well 
aware of the need to establish a network of reserves before a 
situation arises in which such areas have to be reclaimed from 
damaged forest. The first design for such a network was made in 
1978. but little of this has been implemented. During 1984-85, the 
World Wide Fund for Nature and the Indonesian government 
produced the first management plan for a protected area in Irian 
Jaya - the 225 square-kilometre (87 square-mile) Cyclops Moun- 
tain Nature Reserve, which overlooks the provincial capital 
Jayapura, protecting its watershed. Developed in collaboration 
with local people, the Cyclops plan called for the development of 
conservation zones, ranging from a highly protected core zone to 
various degrees of traditional land uses in a number of buffer 
zones. Work to implement the plan is still continuing. Another 
very important reserve, and much bigger than Cyclops, is the 
Lorentz Nature Reserve, which extends over 21,500 square 
kilometres (8,300 square miles). No other reserve in Indonesia 
covers such a range of altitudes and habitats. 

Papua New Guinea 

Like Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea still has more than three- 
quarters of its original forest cover, about 350,000 square 
kilometres (135,000 square miles). Deforestation is slow, but 
shifting cultivation in the highlands and logging, plantation 
development and mining in the lowlands are increasing the rate 
of loss. Shifting cultivation now covers about 10,000 square 
kilometres (3,900 square miles). 

Big enough to shoot - Queen 
Alexandra's birdwing 
{Orntthoptera alexandrae) is the 
world's largest butterfly. The 
females of the species can have 
wingspans in excess of 25 cm (10 
in). In fact, because of its size and 
very high flight, the first 

specimen was brought down by a 
shotgun blast. Queen Alexandra's 
birdwing butterfly is found only 
in a very small region in 
southeastern Papua New Guinea, 
and even there it is rare. Its 
habitats are threatened by the 
expansion of oil-palm plantations. 



. . although only four million people 
live on New Guinea, there are at 
least 1,000 different languages and 
dialects . . . 

The many peoples of New Guinea 

A recent estimate suggests that although only four million 
people live on New Guinea, there are at least 1,000 
different languages and dialects spoken on the island. 
With very few exceptions, the inhabitants of New Guinea 
are horticulturalists, cultivating coconuts, yams, taro, 
bananas and a number of other food plants. Fish are 
caught with nets, spears, and occasionally hooks, and the 
dugong (Dugong dugong) is hunted by some coastal tribes 
using harpoons. On land, pigs, both domesticated and 
wild, are the main source of meat, although wallabies and 
many birds are also eaten. Betel-nut is chewed with lime 
and pepper plant, and the use of tobacco is widespread. 

Apart from on some islands such as the Trobriands, New 
Guinean societies are all without any form of chieftain- 
ship or inherited rank, and a very aggressive individual- 
ism predominates. There is constant competition for 
prestige among adult men, and each is judged according to 
his achievements. The political units are small, usually a 
single village or, in parts of the highlands, a dispersed set 
of hamlets. 

Fighting and warfare are common throughout the 
island. The Jale people who inhabit the highlands of New 
Guinea, east of the Baliem valley, accept war as part of 
their way of life. Wars are waged mercilessly against 
neighbours in the same valley and even against settle- 
ments in other regions. Hostilities may last as long as a 
generation - although interspersed with periods of truce - 
or peter out in a single day. Although deaths are limited by 

the taboos that surround all Jale conflicts, the dead may 
still be subjected to further spite. The supreme act of Jale 
vengeance is to eat the bodies of slain foe. 

Some New Guinean tribes are among the most isolated 
in the world. On the southwast coast of the island, a vast 
rain forest, dissected by a thousand rivers, reaches to the 
edge of the Arafura Sea. This area is occupied in part by a 
group of people known as the Asraat. The Asmat are rarely 
visited by outsiders, and their culture sharply reflects both 
this isolation and the uncompromising nature of their 
environment. Much of their territory is covered by sv/amp 
forest, which is subject to periodic flooding. Stones are a 
rarity in this environment, and so the few stone axes that 
the Asmat possess are obtained from the highland tribes 
by barter. Pottery is unknown, and all food is roasted over 
an open fire. 

The basis of the Asmat's culture are the trees that 
surround them. The sago palm is not only the main source 
of food, but also the most basic raw material. Houses, 
hunting implements, canoes and paddles are all made from 
the wood of this tree. Furthermore, to the Asmat, tree and 
human are symbolically identical: the fruit of a tree is used 
as a metaphor for a man's head, which has profound 
implications for the Asmat - they are headhunters. 

Fruit-eating animals symbolize this concept, and birds, 
including the palm cockatoo (Proboseiger aterrimus) and 
hornbills, are both regularly honoured in Asmat paintings 
and decorations. 



The Australian rain forests are believed to be relicts of forests 
that once clothed both this continent and Antarctica. Although 
not as rich in species as other rain forests, they contain many 
unique forms. The forests between Townsville and Cooktown are 
known to include at least 1,100 species of flowering plant, more 
than 70 percent of these known only from Australia. As 
continental drift has gradually brought Australia closer to New 
Guinea and the Malay archipelago, the Australian flora has been 
enriched with species from these islands. But the number of 
species remains small. Australian rain forests contain no more 
than 2,500 species of flowering plant, whereas Peninsular Malay- 
sia alone contains 8.000 species and Southeast Asia as a whole 
has more than 25,000. 

Australia's rain forests cover about 10,500 square kilometres 
(4,050 square miles) along the northeastern coast of the state of 
Queensland. They are in two main groups. The largest of these 
covers 7.900 square kilometres (3,050 square miles) along the 
coastal plain and mountain ranges which lie between Townsville 
and Cooktown. Most of the mountains are less than 1,000 metres 
(3,300 feet) in height, and the rain forests are found only on the 
eastern slopes, where the annual rainfall exceeds 1,500 milli- 
metres (59 inches). The highest montane forests are found at 1,600 
metres (5,250 feet) above sea level on Mt Bartle Frere. West of the 
mountains the rainfall declines rapidly and the rain forest is 
replaced, often abruptly, by more open eucalypt forest which is 
adapted to the drier conditions. 

Foreign invaders (below) - The 
introduction of foreign species 
into Australia has caused many 
problems. So far a number of 
these invaders, including the 
water buffalo and deer, have been 
kept out of the rain forests. But 
the introduction of the cane toad 
[Bufo marinus) from South 

America has had more drastic 
consequences. The toad invades 
the edge of the forest where it is 
eaten by the spotted-tailed quoll 
{DasyuTus maculatus), a native 
rain forest carnivore. The quoll is 
killed by the lethal toxin in the 
toad's skin, which is why its 
numbers have fallen drastically. 



The second major group of rain forests, 2,600 square kilometres 
(1,000 square miles) in extent, lies further north and is separated 
from the first group by an area of eucalypt forest. It consists of 
scattered patches of forest on the Cape York Peninsula. The 
largest of these lies between the Mcllwraith Ranges and the Iron 
Range, just north of Coen. Smaller patches are found in the 
headwaters of the Jardine River and on the northern tip of the 
Cape York Peninsula. 

Assessments of how much of the original rain forest has been 
cleared vary widely. Australian scientists estimate that 81 
percent of the southern group (Townsville to Cooktown) and 99.5 
percent of the northern group (Cape York Peninsula) have 
remained uncleared. Much of the deforestation that has occurred 
in lowland areas has been for agriculture, especially sugar cane 
farms, which began in the late 1870s. In the uplands, clearing has 
been for cattle pastures, mainly on the Atherton Tableland. This 
too began in the nineteenth century, but had almost ceased by the 
1920s. In both cases rain forest on fertile, basaltic soils was 
favoured for clearing. 

Fire affects the Australian forests, especially at their margins. 
In the past. Aborigines used fire to manipulate the environment, 
changing rain forest into eucalypt forest and grassland. How- 
ever, it is now possible to find areas where old eucalypt forest has 
been recolonized by rain forest. More recently, sugar cane 
farmers used fire to clear their fields. Uncontrolled burning of 
this sort has accounted for some of the deforestation along the 
edges of the forests. Once cleared, most of this land has been 
colonized by other types of forest. 

The politics of protection 

Until recently most of the rain forests between Townsville and 
Cooktown were managed by the State of Queensland as state 
forests or national parks. In the past, this protection prevented 
indiscriminate felling for agriculture. Some of these forests were 
selectively logged by the State on a 30-40 year logging cycle to 
provide a sustained yield of timber. The State's Forest Depart- 
ment claimed that this exploitation did no long-term damage to 
the ecosystem, and actually increased species diversity, a view 
that was hotly contested by conservationists. In the late 1940s it 
estimated the sustainable yield to be 7.5,000 cubic metres a year 
(2.6 million cubic feet). This rose to 600.000 cubic metres (21 
million cubic feet) a year in the late 1960s, but was subsequently 
reduced to less than 80,000 cubic metres (2.8 million cubic feet) a 
year in the 1980s. These wide-ranging adjustments, while claimed 
to be based on sound advice and rigorously enforced, caused 
public unease. This, coupled with concern that the national park 
system was inadequate, led to moves by the federal government to 
have almost all of Queensland's rain forests listed as a World 
Heritage Site and to ban logging completely. The listing pro- 
cedure was formally completed in 1988 amidst considerable 
controversy and strong opposition from the state government, 
which challenged the federal government's authority in court. 
However, the case was dismissed when the state elections at the 
end of 1989 brought a new administration into Queensland, 
sympathetic to the federal position. The only forests not to be 
included in the World Heritage Site proposal are the northern 
rain forests of the Cape York Peninsula. 

Rain forest in Lamington National I'aik. tjueensiand 




The challenge of conservation 

The human lace has steered the planet Earth toward a serious 
state of imbalance, and no one can afford to ignore the fact that 
we are probably entering a period of unprecedented environmen- 
tal crisis. Throughout the world, the very means by which all 
people can survive and prosper are being destroyed. In the 
developing countries, around a billion people exist in severe 
poverty that denies them their basic human needs. They look to 
nature to provide, but the burgeoning populations are too great 
for many tropical soils to support: reports of the resulting cycle of 
poverty, malnutrition and degradation of natural resources - 
which in turn increases poverty - are commonplace. The long list 
of disasters associated with the over-exploitation of tropical 
regions has become all too familiar soil erosion, desertification, 
loss of cropland, deforestation, ecosystem destruction and extinc- 
tion of species. 

In the industrialized world, while populations are stabilizing, 
the consumption of fossil fuels, water and timber stocks, and 
other natural resources continues to grow steadily. Global 
energy consumption has increased by about 50 percent over the 
past two decades, almost entirely because of the ever higher 
demands of the industrialized world. In the mid-1980s the United 
States accounted for 2.5 percent of energy use. whereas sub- 
Saharan Africa took only one percent. The by-products of 
manufacturing industry are a legacy of pollution and climate 
change that will be inherited by future generations. 

1 n the contest between people and the environment there are no 
winners. Our planet's capacity to support people is being 
irreversibly reduced at the very time when booming populations 
and growing consumption are making ever heavier demands on 

it. The root of the problem is people, who have always assumed 
dominance over nature: 7.000 years ago. the cradle of agriculture 
and civilization in the Middle East was deforested: the Greek and 
Roman empiies severely degraded the Mediterranean regions; 
the Germanic. Celtic and Slavic tribes cleared most of Europe and 
then moved on to the New World. 

Now the frontiers are in the tropics, notably in the tropical 
forests. Must the same patterns be repeated? Or can development 
strategies be found that reconcile the fulfilment of human needs 
with a respect for the natural world? 

This is the challenge of conservation. It is far more than 
protecting individual species of plants and animals, more than 
keeping seas and freshwaters clean, more than caring for soils, 
more than protecting forest watersheds to ensure future watei- 
supplies, more than setting aside key sites as protected areas. 
Conservation is meeting all these objectives, but at the same time 
satisfying the basic human needs for housing, warmth, food, 
health and education. It is a form of management of natural 
resources to meet present human demand while maintaining 
sufficient stocks of renewable resources, and the ecological 
processes on which they depend. 

As the twentieth century draws to a close we no longer have the 
excuse of ignorance that earlier civilizations had. The vulnerabi- 
lity of our fragile planet is public knowledge. We can save the 
world - ifwe have a mind to -but time is short. During the lifetime 
of many people living today, the world's human population has 
tripled. It will double again befoie today's schoolchildren finish 
their working lives. The earth can provide, but the laws of nature 
are strict and the penalties for breaking them catastrophic. 

We can save the world - if we have a 

mind to - but time is short. The 

earth can provide, but the laws of 

nature are strict and the penalties 

for breaking them catastrophic. 

Forest recovery Rain forest that has been damaged by human 
activities {main pic) can. if left alone, ix'cover . . . but few such areas 
once touched are left in peace. Surprisingly jierhaps, the siting of an 

oil well in the forest iinsct) causes little direct environmental 
damage. Oil revenue can. aftei- all. be used to pay for conservation. 

Global policies for global problems 

The environmental challenges of coming decades are great 
indeed. But human powers of destruction and annihilation are 
matched by another great characteristic - the capacity to acquire 
knowledge and wisdom, and apply them creatively to solving the 
problems of life. Over the past two decades, and particularly in 
the 1980s, this creativity has been harnessed to develop conser- 
vation strategies for the future. 

The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment 
that took place in Stockholm in 1972 was a historic meeting. For 
the first time the world's leaders acknowledged physical and 
biological resources to be a constraint on human development. 
The problems were spelled out in the World Conservation Strategy 
published in 1980 by The World Conservation Union (iucn) with 
the support of the United Nations Environment Programme and 
the World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf). This document addressed 
government policy-makers, conservation groups and develop- 
ment practitioners from aid agencies, industry and commerce, 
and offered clear guidance on what ought to be done. It explained 
why conservation is crucial for human survival and sustainable 
development, identified the priority issues, and proposed effec- 
tive ways of dealing with them (see box). 

The World Conservation Strategy pinpointed the vital role that 
rain forests play. Their importance as a reservoir of biological 
diversity, coupled with the protective services that they provide - 
particularly their part in the maintenance of global climate - 
catapulted rain forests to the top of the list of world environmen- 
tal issues. The Strategy suggests that they can be saved only after 
accepted ideas of conservation are re-evaluated. Conservation of 
living resources is often treated as a narrow, specialized activity, 
but in fact it is a process that cuts across all human activities, and 
must be planned as such. Conservation and human development 
need to be fully integrated to ensure that, in their quest for a 
better life, people protect those parts of the living world that are 
fragile, and modify the rest only in ways that can endure. 

Our common future 

The World Conservation Strategy set out to change the way 
governments were thinking and acting. This process took a great 
leap forward in 1983, when the General Assembly of the United 
Nations accepted the environmental challenge and called for an 
independent commission to draw up a "global agenda for 
change". The World Commission on Environment and Develop- 
ment was set up under the chairmanship of Gro Harlem 
Brundtland, then Prime Minister of Norway. It was charged with 
working out a strategy for achieving sustainable development for 
the year 2000 and beyond, improving international cooperation 
in reaching this goal, and developing an agenda for action at the 
political level. Since the Commission's report Our Common 
Future was published in 1987, the principle of sustainable 
development has entered the world's political awareness. This 
awareness was developed further in 1987 when the United 
Nations Environment Programme tabled its Environmental 
Perspective to the Year 2000 and Beyond, which strongly rein- 
forced the factual basis and the forward-looking philosophy of 
Our Common Future. 

Many of the political objectives set out in the above reports 
have been achieved, yet the world's rain forests continue to suffer 
clearance for inappropriate forms of agriculture, poorly managed 
logging, and other forms of abuse and degradation. Much more 
action is needed to put principles into practice. In 1989 iucn 
published From Strategy to Action, a response to Our Common 
Future that develops three general principles that build on the 
solid foundations of sustainable development: 

* Going beyond a sectoral approach to planning. Natural 
resources do not respect the boundaries of government depart- 
ments: policies and projects that benefit one sector may be 
disastrous for others. Thus a hydroelectric dam may be valuable 
as a source of power for a capital city, but have a devastating 

effect on the lives of the people whose lands are submerged, and 
on the downstream forests that formerly took their nutrient 
supply from regular flooding. A new approach is required to 
coordinate the decision-makers in different sectors. 

* Encouraging international cooperation. Nations are linked 
together in a complex web of investment, trade and communica- 
tion, so the consequences of one country's internal policies are 
felt by its immediate neighbours and often by others across the 
globe. Greater international cooperation is essential if the 
problems facing the world community are to be solved. 

* Building self-reliance. All too often, human societies have 
taken consumption and industrial production as the measures of 
social success. But the real objective must be quality of life, 
which encompasses health, security, literacy, longevity, and 
particularly the state of the environment in which people live. 
Future paths of development need to be mapped out in consul- 
tation with those who are directly affected. Local responsibility 
for local resources leaves room for adaptability to change, and 
promotes community involvement in questions of resource 

Many of the world's successful development programmes have 
acknowledged and applied these principles; while a long list of 
environmental disasters testifies to the consequences of ignoring 
them. The application of these principles to sustainable develop- 
ment in tropical rain forests needs to be further clarified and 
summarized in order to give a clear lead for the future. This is 
what the remaining pages of this book set out to do. 

A matter of scale (right) - It is 
difficult for many urban 
Westerners to appreciate the 
scale both of the rain forests as 

they once were, and as they are 
now. Monitoring of forest areas 
often requires travel by air, from 
fuel-base to fuel-base. 

The World Conservation Strategy 

SUPPORT SYSTEMS (such as soil regeneration and nutrient 
recycling), on which human survival depends. 
To PRESERVE GENETIC DIVERSITY (the range of genetic 
material found in the world's organisms), from which we 
derive great benefits (see pages 32-33) 


ECOSYSTEMS (notably fish and other wildlife, forests an( 
grazing lands), which support millions of rural commun; 
ties as well as major industries 

The role of nations 

As a global framework, the World Conservation Strategy 
inevitably takes a generalized approach. Putting the 
Strategy into action requires a national perspective, for it 
is at this level that major planning decisions affecting the 
environment are made. To date, few governments have 
taken adequate account of conservation objectives when 
planning development, and fewer still regulate their 
living resources to ensure their best sustainable use. For 
the past decade iucn has been helping governments to 
prepare National Conservation Strategies that cross the 
usual planning boundaries between agriculture, forestry 
and industry, integrating development objectives with 
land-use planning that respects the natural limitations of 
forests and other wildlands. National Conservation Strat- 
egies always call for biologically rich and ecologically 
fragile lands to be put under protection - but the 
underlying principle is that all lands should be used in 
ways that do not cause permanent degradation. This is the 
way to hold open our options for the future. 





Planning to conserve 

It is inevitable that the populations of tropical countries will 
continue to rise and that their rain forest carpets will be rolled 
back still further. But growing human activity need not be 
incompatible with retaining the natural richness of rain forests. 
Current ideas of conservation go well beyond mere hands-off 
preservation: careful land-use planning at a national level allows 
the sustainable extraction of natural resources while maintain- 
ing the forest's biodiversity with all its potential benefits for the 
future. In 1971 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and 
Cultural Organization (unesco) began to put these ideas into 
practice with its Man and Biosphere Programme (mab) to 
promote the setting up of a worldwide system of "Biosphere 
Reserves". These reserves are intended to be representative of 
natural ecosystems, but particular emphasis is placed on harmo- 
niously integrating traditional patterns of land-use by involving 
local people in decision-making. More than 110 countries are 
taking part in the mab Programme and 276 Biosphere Reserves 
covering 1.5 million square kilometres have been declared in 71 
nations; about one-fifth of these are in tropical rain forests. 
UNESCO's role is to promote and monitor the programme through 
national mab committees, but these have no legal powers. 

The model forest 

Ideally, lands are to be earmarked for their most appropriate 
usage as determined by soil quality, topography, accessibility 
and biological value. The resulting patchwork of land-use zones 
represents the whole spectrum of degrees of human impact. 
Inviolate conservation Eireas, set aside in their pristine state as 
national parks with access strictly controlled, lie at one extreme. 
Forests managed sustainably for the production of timber, latex, 
fruits, rattans and medicinal plants come next and are best sited 
as belts surrounding the pristine core areas. Plantations of 
rubber and oil palm or trees grown for their fibre or cellulose can 
also be part of this belt. More intensive land use, such as 
permanent arable farming, pasture and shifting agriculture Eire 
further parts of the jigsaw. Wetlands may be partly used for fish 
ponds or paddy fields. Then come towns, mines, artificial lakes 
and all the trappings of civilization. 

Conservation of the natural heritage occurs throughout a 
landscape like that described above. The national park cores 
contain undisturbed forest and are designed to preserve all its 
structural complexity, species richness and interlinkages: these 
rain forest areas also act as controls against which to monitor the 
long-term effects of manipulating other zones. Many features of 
the pristine cores are shared by managed forests, particularly 
where the two are adjacent. Some animals are able to survive 
equally well in both zones, so larger populations may be 
supported than in the core alone: in addition, they may act as seed 
carriers, constantly reintroducing depleted species into the 
managed zone. 

Plantations, too, have their place in a conservation plan: we 
have seen that rain forests supply a number of "environmental 
services" - such as a continuous supply of clear water and the 
stabilization of soil on steep slopes. These are in fact provided by 
any continuous vegetation mantle, so plantations of perennial 
crops, if appropriately managed, can equally well fill these roles. 
It is only in the most intensively altered and inhabited zones that 
the natural heritage is largely absent, although even here 
species-rich orchards and home-gardens near villages are a 
feature of many parts of the tropics. 

In reality, large-scale land-use plans are difficult to implement. 
Seldom does the planner start with a blank sheet - an uninhabited 
landscape without any occupants and their vested interests. 
Even in the state of Rondonia in Brazil, an agroecological zoning 
project in a virtually uninhabited region was overwhelmed by 
huge numbers of immigrants who surged up the newly-con- 
structed highway from south Brazil. On the island of Palawan in 
the Philippines there is still hope for successful zoning. The 
mountainous island is heavily forested and a graded system of 

protective management has been proposed, from strict control in 
some ecologically critical areas to light control spread over the 
whole island. In this way the biological richness on the island of 
Palawan will be maintained, but at the same time tribal peoples 
will be catered for, watersheds protected, timber stocks assured 
and fisheries maintained. 

One very important facet of successful planning is to respect 
the rights of forest-dwelling people. In the past, these have often 
been ignored by central governments or forest departments. 
Nomadic hunter-gatherers live in and are totally dependent on 
the rain forest, yet it has been common for governments to take 
the paternalistic view that these peoples should be settled in 
villages. Similarly, subsistence farmers on the forest fringe rely 
on the forest to provide them with meat, fruit, honey, poles, 
cordage and medicines. All too often planners in the distant 
capital have omitted forest peoples from their calculations and 
persuaded aid agencies to fund development programmes that 
make the same mistake. Just as an awareness has grown that 
natural forest has long-term value that can and should be 
conserved as a nation develops, so there is today an increasing 
awareness that remote rural tribes with traditional lifestyles 
should not simply be swept aside as though they did not exist. 

Secondary growth - When rain 
forest is cleared for any reason, 
the new growth that eventually 
replaces it is rarely of exactly the 
same type as the original. Among 
the trees striving to dominate the 
water's edge here beside a 
tributary of the Amazon in Peru 
are some Cecropia trees with 
their thin, grey trunks. 



Biosphere reserves (aboue) 
These reserves have been 
established all round the world in 
an attempt to discover the 
solutions to such problems as 
excessive tropical deforestation, 
atmospheric pollution, the 
"greenhouse effect", and 
desertification. Each reserve 
contains at least one sample of 
an ecosystem characteristic of 
one of the world's natural 
regions, in which its human 
inhabitants represent an integral 
component. The main purpose 
behind each is to explore 
methods of both conservation 
and sustainable exploitation of 
the resources it contains, thus 
benefiting the indigenous human 
population, the wildlife, and of 
course the plant species in all 
their diversity. As a model 
ecosystem, the reserves provide 
unique opportunities for research 
and the training of scientists in 
many fields of expertise, not least 
that of land management. The 
results of such measures should 
be of inestimable use to future 
generations around the world. 


Natural forests for sustainable timber 

Timber from tropical rain forests is used all over the world for 
many different purposes. The construction industry makes 
extensive use of hardwoods in structural elements such as piles, 
groynes and beams as well as interior features like floors, doors 
and window frames; and some decorative tropical woods are 
favoured by cabinet makers and manufacturers of the finest 
musical instruments. 

Many tropical countries rely heavily on the revenue generated 
by timber exports. Production of this timber by the sustainable 
use of rain forests has considerable economic advantages over 
establishing timber plantations. Firstly, it is cheaper because 
labour and maintenance costs are lower. Secondly, the time of 
timber harvest is flexible, so the forester can wait until the 
market is right without incurring a financial penalty. In contrast, 
timber plantations require a large initial investment tied to a 
risky prediction of market needs many years hence. Thirdly, 
conservation of other forest goods and services can be achieved 
alongside timber production, so potential money-spinners such 
as medicines and fruit species are preserved for the future. But 
the most important argument is that biodiversity and habitats are 
retained in managed forest and not in plantations. It is not 
surprising that natural forest management for timber production 
is planned (if seldom yet achieved) throughout the world's 
equatorial rain forest belt. 

Rain forests provide a continuous, sustainable source of timber 
only as long as their natural ecological limits - as dictated by the 
dynamics of forest regeneration - are respected (see page 66). The 
early exploitation of rain forests did not test these limits: only 
single trees, scattered through the forest were dragged out by 
man or beast. But today's machinery permits far greater rates of 

logging, which must be maintained to justify the high purchase 
price and running costs of the machinery. 

In recent years the range of tree species considered to be of 
commercial value has increased, further stepping up the rate of 
forest exploitation. The result of these developments has been a 
profound change in the make-up of the forest: scattered small 
canopy gaps which allow the regeneration of slow-growing, 
shade-tolerant species have given way to more and larger gaps, 
which favour fast-growing, light-demanding species. 

Forests throughout the world differ in their proportions of 
these two species groups, and thus in their capacity to regenerate 
following extensive logging. For example, the rain forests of the 
western end of the Malay archipelago (Malaysia, the Philippines, 
Brunei and western Indonesia) are dominated by one family of 
commercially valuable trees, the Dipterocarpaceae, many of 
which are light-demanding "big-gap" species. These dipterocarp 
rain forests are therefore very robust in the face of modern, highly 
mechanized logging because they can re-establish very rapidly 
after extensive clearance. Dipterocarps have captured a large 
proportion of the tropical timber market because these relatively 
fast-growing trees produce pale, soft, low-density wood that 
makes good veneer and plywood. 

On the other hand, the West African rain forests contain 
numerous "small-gap" species - such as members of the Melia- 
ceae family, the so-called West African mahoganies - although no 
one family is dominant here. Many of Amazonia's rain forests are 
similar to those of Africa: numerous shade-tolerant "small-gap" 
species predominate. If these forests are to regenerate their 
natural composition, only low-intensity logging is permissible. 
All these forests are vulnerable to mismanagement and greed. If 



excessively large gaps are created in any rain forest, a tangled 
mass of woody climbers and commercially useless small trees 
such as Macaranga and Cecropia (see page 65) grow up. 

Managing the forest 

Tropical forests are managed under one of two basic types of 
system. Under the monocyclic (or uniform) system, all the larger 
trees are harvested in one operation. The non-commercial species 
are killed by poisoning and seedlings are relied on to grow the 
new forest. In a polycyclic (or selection) system, only some of the 
mature trees are removed and the half-grown adolescents left 
behind for the next cut. A monocyclic system causes greater 
damage and needs a longer interval between cuts - commonly 70 
years in dipterocarp rain forests. It favours fast-growing big-gap 
species. Conversely a polycyclic system favours small-gap species 
since more of the original forest is left intact. Recuts are possible 
every 20-40 years, depending on how fast the retained adolescent 
trees grow. 

The Malayan Uniform (monocyclic) System was once widely 
used in Southeast Asia and is still in use in Sabah, where almost 
pure stands of dipterocarps occur. Today, the Asian forests are 
mainly exploited polycyclically, as are all managed African and 
Latin American forests. This system appeals to the business com- 
munity and government resource managers because it allows a 
higher frequency of recuts and also because the markets only want 
logs of large dimension, especially for peeling into veneers. It is 
also compatible with forest conservation and continued extrac- 
tion of minor forest products, because the scale of disruption is 
limited and the full diversity of plant and animal species is re- 
tained. Such a system has been operating successfully in Myanma 

(formerly Burma) for more than a hundred years. As long ago as 
1850 the teak forests were being carefully assessed for the develop- 
ment of working plans. The "Burma Selection System" requires 
felling of mature trees over a 25-40 year cycle with extraction by 
elephant. The forests of Pegu Yomas, north of Yangon (formerly 
Rangoon), are in their third or fourth cycle of extraction. 

From the biological and technical points of view, the manage- 
ment of natural rain forests as a sustainable source of timber is 
entirely possible. Where problems arise, it is usually for political, 
social and economic reasons and not because the forests are too 
fragile to be manipulated. For example, a recent lUCN study in 
Indonesia showed that forest management plans are broadly 
sustainable, but that they are almost invariably breached when 
implemented. The reasons are complex, but include lack of long- 
term incentives to the concessionaire and lack of monitoring by 
the Forest Department to prevent unnecessary damage. To make 
such a system work, damage has to be strictly limited. The 
seedlings or adolescents which are to form the new forests must 
not be destroyed during logging; roads must be correctly sited 
and constructed to minimize the area they disturb and the erosion 
they cause. Recuts must not be allowed before there is adequate 
growth. Hunters and farmers must not be allowed to enter once 
logging roads have given easy access, otherwise animal popula- 
tions will be decimated, or the forest destroyed for farmland. But 
almost invariably these cautions have not been heeded, resulting 
in much unnecessary damage. This has led to the view that rain 
forests are too fragile to withstand utilization and to impassioned 
pleas for embargoes on tropical timber. These protests need to be 
better focused to attempt to put right the underlying weaknesses 
in human societies which actually lead to the mayhem. 

A trunk around a trunk (far 
left) - Elephants work on the 
teak plantation in Lampang. 
northern Thailand, their massive 
strength easily hefting the 
enormous trees wherever they 
are directed. The elephant baby 
follows its mother and so learns 
about its probable future role. 

Dipterocarp trees (left) - These 
relatively fast-growing rain 
forest trees overhang the Tahan 
River in Malaysia. 
Characteristically, dipterocarps 
have leathery evergreen leaves 
and, when in season, clusters of 
colourful and fragrant flowers 
with twisted petals. 



Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, forestry in the humid 
tropics went through a phase when plantations were seen as a 
panacea. Their potential to produce a uniform product, with high 
yields in small areas compared to natural forests, seemed very 
attractive. Plantations were established in many countries with a 
succession of "miracle" exotic species, including Anthocephalus 
chinensis and Paraserianthes (Albizia) falcataria. Similarly, 
subtropical species of pine from semi-arid Central America, 
mainly Pinus caribaea and Pinus oocarpa, were introduced to 
Africa, Madagascar, Malaysia and elsewhere. The plans of the 
foresters were soon confounded: hard experience proved that 
species from the strongly seasonal tropics fared very badly in 
non-seasonal humid climates - a biologist would say not surpri- 
singly. During this phase perfectly good pristine or lightly logged 
rain forests were cleared at great expense and replaced by 
plantations. For example, on the island of Bali in Indonesia a 
large proportion of the island's rain forests were inadvisedly 
cleared for pine plantations. 

Tropical plantation forestry is beset by many other problems. 
The extensive land clearance needed to set up a plantation is both 
expensive and difficult, and the newly-bared ground is prone to 
erosion and cannot hold mineral nutrients, which leach down out 
of reach of plant roots. Plantations are composed of pure stands of 
single species, making them extremely vulnerable to attack by 
pests and diseases, and invasion by weeds. Costly and time- 
consuming measures must be taken to maintain the plantation's 
productivity. Weed species such as wild banana in Malaysian 
pine plantations and Cecropia trees in Amazonian yemane 
{Gmelina arborea) plantations must be physically cleared on a 
regular basis, while shoot-borers, the larvae of the moth Hypsi- 
pyla grandella, are the scourge of mahogany (Swietenia macro- 
phylla) plantations in Central and South America. 

In common with other crops, tree plantations have a high 
demand for mineral nutrients from the soil. Some timber 
plantations in the humid tropics have already experienced 
nutrient limitation; artificial fertilizers may be needed if the land 
is to produce even one crop of timber. This is unlikely to be 
feasible and, in any case, fertilizers are primarily intended for use 
on food crops, not timber trees. 

A place for plantations 

It has recently been realized that the replacement of natural 
forest with plantations is a misguided policy from the point of 
view of both conservation and economics. Nevertheless, plan- 
tations do have their place: they can usefully be established on 
the scrublands and wastelands which disfigure most tropical 
countries. In these areas they can restore forest cover and 
nutrient cycles, which are the first steps in restoring rain forest 
tree species to sites from which they have disappeared. Once the 
trees mature, birds and arboreal mammals move in bringing the 
seeds of native rain forest species with them, which can then 
become established in the understorey. If the plantation is then 
managed for conservation rather than profit, and the invading 
seedlings are not removed, a new rain forest may, in time, 
develop. This is happening in Sri Lanka, where pines are used to 
restore degraded land. 

Plantations can also be valuable as physical barriers and buffer 
zones around national parks, where they provide extra living 
space for forest animals, and a source of commodities for local 
peoples. They can be justified economically where they yield 
different products from the natural forest, or bring degraded or 
damaged land back into use. Sabah, and more recently Indonesia, 
plan to establish plantations of Acacia mangium, Albizia and 
perhaps some dipterocarps on part of the 40,000 square kilometres 
(15,400 square miles) of Borneo destroyed by an 18-month drought 
and huge forest fire in 1983. 

Trees for plantations 

The trees most suitable for plantations are those which naturally 

colonize any large gaps that appear in the forest canopy (see 
pages 64-65, 184-185). Many are natural pioneers, which estab- 
lish and grow rapidly out in the open, where they are exposed to 
direct sunlight, high temperatures and dry conditions. They 
produce copious, easily-dispersed seeds, which can persist for 
many years in the soil, waiting for the right germination 
conditions. These species colonize landslips, river banks and 
other bare land, and have the great advantage that they occur 
naturally in pure stands, so they have some inherent resistance to 
disease and pests. Unfortunately, many fast growers also have 
broad, spreading crowns, and if planted too close together for 
natural crown development, their growth slows dramatically. 
The financial return from a timber plantation depends on the 
quantity that can be produced per hectare, so the closer the trees 
can be spaced the better. Therefore, from a commercial point of 
view, the best plantation trees are those which have narrow 
crowns: this group includes pines which have a narrow, single- 
stemmed - or monopodial - crown. 

The rain forest matrix itself contains a number of fast-growing 
species, but they do not all have the same set of useful features as 
pioneers; for example, seeds may be produced infrequently, and 
be large and difficult to store. Most of these species do not occur 
naturally in pure stands, and most develop multi-limbed, broad 
crowns (known as sympodial crowns). Fast-growing dipterocarps 
are an important example of this group, and have therefore very 
limited potential as plantation species. There will always be a 
market for dipterocarp timber, but it is currently obtainable only 
from managed natural forests. 

The most widely planted broadleaved species in the humid 
tropics are yemane (Gmelina arborea) and Acacia mangium. 
Yemane is related to teak (Tectona grandis) and native to the 
same region, continental Southeast Asia. It produces a pale, fine- 
grained timber suitable for furniture and for fibre, but needs a 
fairly fertile soil. Acacia mangium is a pioneer native to the 
Queensland forests. It grows very fast to produce timber suitable 
for pulping and has the merit that it establishes easily on very 
degraded sites. A few species of eucalypt (Eucalyptus deglupta, E. 
grandis, E. urophylla and hybrids of the last two) have been fairly 
widely planted but are susceptible to shoot-boring moths like 
those that attack mahogany, destroying the growing point of the 
tree. Obeche (Triplochiton scleroxylon), a West African pioneer, 
has promise, but has not yet been very widely planted. 

None of these species produces a particularly attractive 
timber, and indeed very few fine cabinet wood species have yet 
been grown successfully in plantations. One notable exception is 
mahogany, which is widely grown in Fiji, Sri Lanka and Sabah 
despite being commonly afflicted by a shoot-borer and pinhole- 
wood-borer beetle. 

Plantation seed-bed - Seeds of 
fast-growing Albizia trees are 
sought in gallery forest like this 
in the Bulolo Gorge and 
elsewhere in Papua New Guinea 
for use in plantations. The 
species is particularly quick to 
restore forest cover in areas that 
have undergone widespread 




Resources for our future 

Rain forests are not only exploited for their timber. A multitude 
of so-called minor forest products still forms the basis of local 
rural economies, and until a few decades ago these were more in 
demand than timber in the international market. In 1938, timber 
and these other products were of roughly equal value in the 
Indonesian economy: now timber exports provide 95 percent of 
the revenue from that nation's rain forests. 

Recent research in the Amazon Basin suggests that this trend 
could be reversed, that non-timber products could provide better 
profits than timber in the medium-term. The conclusions, des- 
cribed on page 30, need to be tested in a variety of different 
locations before there can be any certainty that this principle 
would hold true over large areas of forest, much of it relatively far 
away from local markets. Most foresters and economists are 
sceptical, believing that timber will remain the main money- 
earning commodity into the foreseeable future, and that manage- 
ment of timber stocks for sustained yield is the main challenge. 

Nevertheless, non-timber products are of undoubted value, 
both internationally (rattans, gums, latexes) and on a local scale 
(medicines, fruits). The need for conservation of this cornucopia 
of commodities is an essential weapon in the armoury of the 
conservationist because of the millions of rural people who are 
known to benefit directly from their use. Most minor forest 
products do not enter international markets. Many get no further 
than villages on the forest fringe, where they play an essential 
life-supporting role. If this is to be maintained, national and 
international development agencies must implement forest man- 
agement plans - such as selective polycyclic felling (see page 182) 
- that encourage the sustainable production of other products in 
addition to timber. 

Nature's medicine chest 

In 1988 an international meeting of more than 50 pharmacolo- 
gists, economists and conservation biologists met in Thailand 
under the auspices of the World Health Organization (who), iucn 
and the World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf) to develop guidelines 
on how to conserve and use medicinal plants. The "Chiang Mai 
Declaration" called for greater effort to catalogue and conserve 
medicinal plants and launched a programme to "Save the Plants 
that Save Lives". 

A few major world drugs are derived from rain forest plants. 
The anti-malarial agent quinine is extracted from the bark of 
several species of the Andean tree Cinchona. African and Asian 
species of the shrub Rauvolfia provide reserpine, which is used to 
reduce high blood pressure and to treat mental illness. Several 
legumes, especially the Moreton Bay chestnut (Castanospermum 
australe) of Australia, provide castanospermin, which is showing 
promise as a drug to combat AIDS. Forest people are the 
guardians of a huge natural pharmacy and there are high hopes 
that, with their assistance, new drug plants will be discovered. It 
has been estimated that three billion people - 60 percent of the 
world's population - depend upon traditional medicines for their 
principle source of cures for illness. Most of these are plants; in 
India and China 80-90 percent of traditional medicines are plant- 
based, and Chinese herbal treatments alone employ 5,000 species. 
Throughout the world the forests are the richest source of 
medicinal plants. For example, in Kenya 40 percent of herbal 
medicines come from native forest trees. In Amazonia an 
ethnobotanical team has catalogued more than 1,000 species of 
plants used by Indians, many of them as medicines. 

Lost in the smoke of time? 

An additional problem that must be faced by development 
planners is that of cultural change: as people move away from 
traditional lifestyles, their knowledge of forest plants and 
animals is soon lost. Efforts have been made to record this 
enormous reservoir of information: in the New World, organiza- 
tions like WWF, the National Geographic Society, the Royal 
Botanic Gardens at Kew in England, and the New York and 

Missouri Botanic Gardens in the United States are working to 
document ethnobotanical lore. A single tribe of Amazonian 
Indians makes use of more than 100 different species of plants for 
medicinal purposes, yet virtually none of these has been properly 
analysed. More than 90 different Amazonian tribes are thought to 
have disappeared since the turn of the century, mainly through 
low resistance to new disease and over-exploitation by colonists. 
Fast-disappearing species are a problem, but knowledge of how 
species may be used is disappearing faster still. 

Conservation of internationally valuable forest products 

The single most important non-timber product to be traded 
internationally is rattan - the stems of climbing palms from the 
rain forests of the Asia-Pacific region. About 150,000 tonnes 
(130,000 US tons) are traded annually, representing a value of 
approximately US$2,250 million. Rattans grow wild in the forest, 
clawing their way up into the canopy using ferociously spiny 
leaves and tendrils. They are collected by forest people and sold to 
traders, often ending up in the traditional centres of the rattan 
trade - Ujung Pandang on Sulawesi, and Singapore. Until 
recently, much of the unprocessed rattan was exported to Hong 
Kong and the industrialized world as raw material for the 
manufacture of rope, baskets and furniture; but since the mid- 
1980s the trade in raw rattan has been progressively restricted 
and manufacturing now takes place locally. Rattan exploitation 
has increased as roads have improved access to the forest, social 
controls have broken down and timber workers have sought to 
supplement their income. As a result, this forest resource is 
disappearing so rapidly that plantations have begun to spring up 
to satisfy the demand - for example, more than 40 square 
kilometres (15 square miles) in Sabah over the past few years. 



Despite the commercial importance of wild rattans, there 
remains much to be learned. In the Gunung Mulu National Park 
in Sarawak, the local Penan people, who use rattans for weaving, 
building and cordage, have pinpointed several new species for 
scientists. This emphasizes the importance of keeping wild stocks 
of forest products in protected areas while maintaining the local 
knowledge too. 

The forest's store 

Many other commercially significant crops originated in rain 
forests, including bananas, citrus fruits, mango and sugar cane; 
and many familiar spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg 
were first found in the rain forests of the East. Coffee (Coffea spp.) 
originally came from the montane forests of Ethiopia, oil palm 
(Elaeis guineensis) from lowland Africa and cocoa (Theobroma 
cacao) from the western Amazon. In the past, the exploitation of 
many tropical fruit species was limited by the perishability of 
their seed: trees such as durian {Durio zibethinus), rambutan 
(Nephelium lappaceum) and raangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) 
in the east, peach palm (Baclris gasipaes) and the guarana vine 
(Paullinia cupana) in the New World were once of only local 
significance. All of these have long been grown in gardens and 
small plantations; indeed the durian and mangosteen have never 
been found growing in the wild. Now that modern communica- 
tions allow rapid seed transport, the full potential of these species 
can be realized. 

Resins and latexes abound in rain forests, but their commercial 
importance has declined since the advent of synthetic equiva- 
lents. Some are still of commercial value: manila copal from the 
Agathis conifers of the Eastern rain forests is used in specialized 
varnishes, and certain damars (resins) from dipterocarps of the 

same region are used in perfumes. Gutta percha (the latex of 
Palaquium gutta) was one of the first products obtained from the 
rain forests of colonial Singapore and Malaya: once important as 
an insulator in submarine cables, it still has a minor specialized 
use as a temporary dental filling material for which its curious 
property of swelling as it sets makes it suitable. The Amazonian 
species Hevea brasiliensis provides the most important and 
famous latex, para rubber, whose story is well known. Following 
the discovery of the rubber vulcanization process, the high 
demand for pneumatic tyres which accompanied the advent of 
automobiles led to the Amazonian rubber boom of the late 
nineteenth century. Huge fortunes were made from the tapping of 
wild trees throughout the Amazon Basin. The merchants spent 
their riches on fine mansions and even opera houses in Manaus 
and Belem, while the tappers themselves lived in conditions that 
were approaching virtual slavery. Hevea seed was taken to the 
Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London, and seedlings were 
sent from there to Singapore where growers on the failing coffee 
plantations were persuaded to cultivate this new crop. Malaysia 
became prosperous and plantation-grown rubber almost eclipsed 
the native Amazonian product. However, the descendants of the 
original Brazilian tappers continued in their trade, largely 
forgotten by the outside world until the recent onslaught on the 
Amazonian forests by cattle ranchers led to violent confron- 
tations (see page 124). 

As the earth's supply of fossil fuels dwindles, we will increas- 
ingly have to turn to the plant kingdom as a source of the complex 
organic molecules needed by the chemical industry. The largest 
and most extensive collection of these compounds is found in the 
world's rain forest regions: it is essential for the future that these 
forests be safeguarded. 

Rattan, Singapore (.left) - The 
useful applications of the rattan 
vine are of extraordinary number 
and diversity, which is why its 
commercial value has soared 
over the last two decades. The 
increase in value, however, has 
in turn led to an increase in 
exploitation, and finally to the 
need for conservation measures. 

Traditional methods (above) - 
The milky white latex, tapped 
from the rubber trees, is 
traditionally coagulated into 
solid form by smoking over a fire, 
building up a congealed mass 
layer by layer by pouring the 
latex over a spindle. The rubber 
obtained from most commercial 
plantations is now coagulated 
using chemicals. 


Protecting the forests 

The first ever national park, Yellowstone in the United States, 
was established in 1872. Since then more than 5,400 protected 
areas have been established worldwide, covering more than 5.5 
million square kilometres (2.1 million square miles). Most 
governments have now recognized the value of protected areas to 
their people, and in the developing world of the tropics there are 
already almost 2,000 such sites covering more than 2 million 
square kilometres (more than 800,000 square miles). Although no 
precise data exist, perhaps one-third of these sites include some 
tropical rain or monsoon forest within their boundaries. 

Has enough been done to ensure the long-term survival of the 
world's biological diversity within these protected areas? The 
answer is a very definite No. The problems are three-fold: some 
countries still have no protected areas and no legislation to put 
them in place; many countries have too small an area under 
protection; and most countries in the tropics have insufficient 
resources to manage their protected areas properly. 

Key rain forest countries still lacking protected areas of any 
kind include the Comoro Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Laos and 
the Solomon Islands. Countries with too small an area under 
protection include Myanma (formerly Burma), Papua New 
Guinea and the Philippines in Asia; Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and 
Madagascar in Africa; Jamaica in the Caribbean; Brazil and 
Guyana in South America. All these protect considerably less 
than ten percent of their lands, a figure widely accepted as the 
minimum needed to maintain national biodiversity. 

Management of species-rich sites is crucial to their long-term 
maintenance, but virtually all rain forest countries are unable to 
devote sufficient resources to training and employment of 
national park personnel. There are many different ways to 
manage protected areas. lucN recognizes eight categories, rang- 
ing from strict nature reserves where people are only allowed in 
for scientific research, to multiple-use reserves where controlled 
extraction of game, timber and other forests products is permit- 
ted. Such a range of management options within a national 
protected area system is useful since it allows flexibility to 
provide for the needs of local people living around and occa- 
sionally inside the park. Trained managers are essential if the 
integrity of protected areas is to be assured. 

The long-term effectiveness of these reserves depends not only 
on careful management, but also on their location. It is clearly 
desirable for the entire range of rain forest types to be repre- 
sented in conservation areas, but in many cases considerations of 
realpolitik have determined that reserves be sited where there is 
no competition for land use. Some, however, have been con- 
sciously chosen to conserve particularly diverse landscapes and 
rich ecosystems. For example, the Manu National Park in Peru 
which lies on the east flank of the Andes, spans the range from 
montane to lowland rain forest. In the mid-1970s, a proposal was 
put forward for a comprehensive conservation network through- 
out the Brazilian part of the Amazon Basin which would include 
known centres of species richness and endemism, the so-called 
Pleistocene refugia (see page 54). Similarly, the Korup National 
Park in Cameroon is in one of Africa's Pleistocene refugia and is 
exceptionally rich in plant species (see page 138). 

Principles for conservation 

The size and habitat diversity of a conservation area need to be 
determined according to sound biological principles. If a reserve 
can support only a small population of a species, then that 
population is susceptible to chance extinction through disease or 
local catastrophe. A large population spread over a diverse 
landscape contains greater genetic diversity, which can prevent 
the accumulation of harmful genetic mutations and safeguard 
the population's long-term viability. The problems of reserve size 
are magnified for those animals which have very large territories. 
This group includes birds such as hornbills (Rhyticeros spp.) and 
predators at the top of the food chain, such as the tiger (Panthera 
tigris). It has been realized that conservation of these species can 

occur not only in national parks, but also in adj acent buffer zones 
in which limited extraction of timber and other forest products is 
permissible. Even relatively intensive timber extraction of up to 
100 cubic metres per hectare (1,470 cubic feet per acre), which 
disrupts the structure of the forest for many years, does not 
necessarily eliminate forest vertebrates, including those which 
live in the canopy. This realization greatly increases the 
potential for animal conservation. 

Although there are success stories amongst the world's 
national parks, much remains to be done. Those reserves that 
exist only on paper must be turned into reality, and those already 
in operation must be protected from damage by local people, 
ambitious logging companies or plantation owners. Biologists 
must continue their investigations both of forests which are 
being used to supply useful products and of natural forests, 
producing detailed species inventories and monitoring popula- 
tion. In the future, individuals of rare species might be moved 
between reserves to maintain genetic diversity, and introduced to 
sites if their known habitats were doomed. Governments should 
be encouraged to make land-use plans that maximize the 
opportunities for species conservation by zoning tree plantations 
and production forests around national parks. Ideally, parks 
should be linked by forest corridors, such as those planned for Sri 
Lanka as part of its forest development strategy. 

Training and education are important adjuncts to the estab- 
lishment of national parks, for without staff to manage them and 
without the support of the local population, they are doomed to 
fail in the long term. It is also important to involve local people in 
conservation by maintaining traditional rights when a national 
park is created: for example, in Mulu National Park in Sarawak, 
hunting access for the local people has been guaranteed by the 
Forest Department. Similarly, alternative sources of forest 
products, such as buffer-zone forests or plantations, should be 
made available. Many rain forest areas could be developed for 
tourism, thus giving a boost to the national economy as well as 
creating jobs for local people, whose traditional jungle lore could 
be adapted to this new use. 

Too often in the past, international aid to tropical countries 
has caused deforestation as a by-product. Following pressure 
from conservationists, the environmental damage caused by 
projects sponsored by the World Bank, the EEC and others is 
starting to penetrate the world's political conscience. It is hoped 
that present trends will continue and that aid packages will 
increasingly include provision for the conservation of the 
natural world in the humid tropics. 

There is now an abundance of data on what parks need to go 
where. All that is lacking is the political will to put them in place. 
The coming decade is crucial: all the key protected areas must be 
in place by the end of the century. After that the spread of people 
into rain forest lands will have closed the door on many options 
that exist today. 

Tiger reserves - India set up 14 
tiger reserves as a result of 
Project Tiger, established after a 
tiger census in 1972 found a total 
in India of fewer than 2,000 
individuals. Today, some 24,700 
sq km (9,550 sq miles) has been 
put aside for tiger conservation, 
and the number of tigers is again 
rising in consequence. 




International cooperation 

The reasons for rapid tropical deforestation are complex, but are 
all related to the way in which governments manage the growth 
and development of the human societies in their care. Develop- 
ment patterns in most countries have resulted in financial and 
material benefits for relatively few people, at the expense of an 
impoverished majority. The characteristic effects of these pat- 
terns include rapid population growth; extreme concentration of 
landholdings that leave millions in search of land; limited job 
opportunities; over-extended international loans; and inappro- 
priate land-use decisions that are based on earning hard currency 
rather than directly benefitting local communities. Many de- 
velopment projects have caused deforestation, both directly and 
indirectly, with dire effects on communities who value forests. 
This book contains numerous examples of development projects 
that have run into unexpected problems, the majority of them 
collaborative ventures between national governments and the 
international development banks or aid agencies of the industria- 
lized world. Yet there is still a strong basis for hope. Every failure, 
although costly in terms of environmental damage and human 
misery, is a lesson learned, while over the decades solutions have 
been found. 

So far, implementation of successful solutions to deforestation 
and land misuse has taken place on a small scale. To achieve real 
success in reversing deforestation, concentrated effort on a broad 
front is needed, involving both public and private sectors, from 
heads of state and government ministries to local authorities and 
community groups. 

Governments must take the lead in developing new policies and 
forging international links that can focus resources and exper- 
tise on the rain forest problem and bring about the policy changes 
needed to make sustainable forest use a practical possibility. Two 
major initiatives during the last decade have led to much greater 
collaboration between nations, and give hope for renewed 
optimism - the Tropical Forestry Action Plan and the Inter- 
national Tropical Timber Agreement. 

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan 

The development banks (World, Asian, African and Inter- 
American) and the overseas development agencies of the indus- 
trialized nations have been far from satisfied with the perfor- 
mance of their projects over the past two decades. Increasingly 
exposed by environmental "ginger" groups, the project treadmill 
of throwing good money after bad has become an embarrassment. 
Worst of all, in the early 1980s the failure of rain forest projects 
was leading to a decline in the level of international funding for 
the forest sector. 

In 1985 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization 
(fag) met with lUCN, the World Resources Institute, the World 
Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (undp) to 
develop a new strategy for forestry in the tropics, based on 
international cooperation and increased investment. The result 
was the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (tfap). 

The essence of the tfap philosophy is that because poverty is 
the root cause of tropical deforestation, the richer nations should 
fund projects to alleviate that poverty and thus reduce deforest- 
ation. There is a good deal of healthy scepticism about the 
capability of development agencies to carry out projects that will 
genuinely discourage deforestation, since most projects in the 
past have achieved the opposite. However, it is important to 
remember that the tfap is a strategy that is on offer to developing 
nations, not a master plan being inexorably implemented by the 
world's power brokers. The basic objective of the Plan is to 
restore, conserve and manage forests and forest lands in such a 
way that they sustainably benefit rural people, agriculture and 
the general economy of the countries concerned, and within this 
objective, it has great flexibility and adaptability. It aims to 
tackle five priority areas of concern (see opposite page), each a 
crucial part of the battle to use tropical forests sustainably and 
reduce deforestation. 

Putting the plan into action 

The first step in implementing the Plan was to inform all the 
tropical nations of its existence and invite them to participate. 
Since 1986, 73 countries have responded, representing 57 percent 
of the 129 potential participants and containing between them 
about 90 percent of the world's tropical forests. This remarkable 
response is a measure of the wide acceptability of the tfap. The 
next step was to produce a review of tropical nations' forest 
resources and decide what sort of projects would be needed. In 
general, this review is carried out by a team of experts comprising 
representatives from the subject country, and foresters, econ- 
omists and others from the nations interested in funding projects. 
As of 31 January 1990, 20 country reviews had been completed and 
a further 42 were ongoing. 

Despite an appearance of progress, these reviews are in fact a 
long way from establishing, let alone completing, the desperately 
needed improvements in the management of rain forest lands. 
Only nine countries have so far gone right through to the stage of 
implementing projects, and none of these are completed. 

Monitoring progress 

The tfap is in its infancy, yet the pace of deforestation is so high 
that there is an urgent need to monitor its success. The 
administration of the Plan is carried out by a small team based at 
FAG in Rome, supported by twice-yearly meetings of Forestry 
Advisors from participating nations. These groups have analysed 
the level of investment of overseas aid and technical assistance 
and found that between 1984 and 1988, spending in the forest 
sector rose by 80 percent. This is an impressive rise, but more is 
needed. The tfap estimated that US$810 million a year was 
needed during 1987-91, but in 1988 the level of spending was still 
only US$576 million. In reality, there are difficulties in disbursing 
such huge sums in tropical countries. All too often there is 
insufiicient expertise to manage projects in the field. 

There are other bottlenecks slowing down the progress of tfap. 
Despite the new approach to integrating conservation and 
development outlined on pages 178-179, and the explicit adoption 
of this approach in the tfap, too many of the projects being 
designed are very traditional in their approach. They tend to 
compartmentalize logging, agriculture and conservation and 
keep them separate, but these are exactly the barriers that have 
led to disaster in the past. Only by integrating the planning 
process can the future of the forests be safeguarded. There is a 
great need for multiple-use management objectives, combining 
conservation of nature with timber extraction and harvesting of 
rattan, bamboo, fruits, nuts and other resources of the forest. 
There are few examples of such projects in operation at present, 
yet the future of rain forests may depend upon them. 

The tfap is by far the largest initiative ever focused on the 
conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests. 
Nations throughout the industrialized and developing world are 
taking part and the energy, resources and enthusiasm being 
channelled into the tfap process represent a massive commit- 
ment. Yet the tfap is only a framework for action. Its interpre- 
tation and its success lie in the hands of individual governments 
and their leaders. 

By the year 2000 the tfap will have either made significant 
steps towards saving the rain forests for future generations, or it 
will have fuelled a disaster of global proportions. 

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) 

On the international markets a number of global commodities are 
managed through commodity agreements, including cocoa, jute 
and coffee. These agreements are generally mediated by the 
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 
(unctad), and their objective is to stabilize markets and prevent 
over-production by establishing quotas based on market intelli- 
gence. In 1983 a new commodity agreement, the International 
Tropical Timber Agreement (itta) came into being, but this one 



made significant departures from its forebears. The itta is the 
first commodity agreement that deals with a naturally occurring 
resource. Unlike agricultural crops, the management of tropical 
forests for sustained production of timber is constrained by the 
productivity and ecology of the soils and species concerned and, 
with a few exceptions, is not manipulated by intensive manage- 
ment techniques, such as adding fertilizers, raising seedlings 
artificially or planting in monocultures. 

The aim of the agreement is to establish a system of consul- 
tation and cooperation between timber consuming and producing 
nations. This is needed to ensure that management and exploi- 
tation of the commodity {that is, timber) is compatible with the 
maintenance of the ecological services of the forest, such as 
watershed protection and climate control. In other words, 
tropical forests need to be utilized for their timber, but at the same 
time conserved for their general benefits and to ensure that 
sufficient stocks are maintained for future generations to har- 
vest. This is not a new concept. Even in colonial days, foresters 
were known as "conservators of the forests", but it is the first time 
an international commodity agreement has acknowledged 
conservation in its objectives. 

It is for this reason that many governments have looked to the 
ITTA, and to the International Tropical Timber Organization 
(iTTo) that administers the agreement, for bold collaborative 
steps to control deforestation. The itto started life rather slowly, 
but the pace of its activities has increased in recent years and 
there have been some valuable advances. 

The agreement was adopted in 1984 by 36 timber-producing and 
33 timber-consuming nations. Adoption, however, does not 
constitute full membership of itto, and to date 18 producing and 
22 consuming countries are full members. Nevertheless, their 
credentials are impressive. Between them the members control 
more than 80 percent of world Gross Domestic Product (gdp), and 
about 70 percent of the world's tropical forest resources. The 
consuming countries that are members account for more than 95 
percent of the world's imports of tropical timber. 

The objectives of itto are such that both timber trade and 
environmental organizations have supported the organization, 
attended meetings as observers and offered advice and infor- 
mation. All are interested in conserving resources for the future. 

Itto projects 

The ITTO secretariat, based in Yokohama, Japan, has imple- 
mented a number of useful projects on behalf of the Council and 
committees of the organization. In collaboration with the 
Brazilian government, a preliminary project is being carried out 
in Acre to pave the way for a US$15 million proposal to develop 
forest industries in the state on an ecologically sustainable basis. 
The need for such projects, which can demonstrate how tropical 
forests should be managed, is very urgent indeed. Few of the 
major industrial logging enterprises currently operational are 
sustainable in the long term, as has been demonstrated by 
another itto project. 

When an experienced team of foresters was despatched by itto 
to investigate current logging practices in the timber-producing 
member countries, they returned with depressing news. Of the 
roughly 8.3 million square kilometres (3.2 million square miles) of 
potentially productive rain and monsoon forests, the team 
concluded that less than 0.1 percent is currently being managed 
sustainably for timber (see box). 

iTTO's future role 

Although iTTo's projects have come up with valuable reports and 
initiatives the policy changes needed at national level, and the 
international cooperation and consensus needed to encoiu-age 
these changes, have been slow to materialize. It is widely held 
that ITTO should be promoting the case for sustainable manage- 
ment of rain forests to member goverrmients more strongly, 
demonstrating mechanisms for achieving this end, and setting 

achievable targets and timetables for implementation. Timber- 
producing countries are still competing directly with each other 
and thus encouraging the present low-priced buyers' market. 
Realistic timber pricing is essential if the full cost of sustainable 
utilization of the forests, including environmental costs, is to be 
met by those who use the timber. 

There is no doubt that too much tropical hardwood is being 
used too quickly. Superb, close-grained timbers are being turned 
into disposable plywood used as the shuttering for pouring 
concrete structures, simply because they are so cheap. A 
reduction in output should accompany more realistic pricing, but 
such changes have to be made through international coopera- 
tion, in an equitable manner. Itto is in a position to mediate such 
initiatives and should do so, soon. 

The five priority areas of the Tropical Forestry Action Plan 

Forestry in land use. Making better use of forest lands to 
ensure sustainable practices in forestry and agriculture, thus 
reducing soil erosion and increasing productivity. 

Development of a sustainable logging industry. Improving 
the ways in which tropical timbers are managed, including less 
damaging harvesting methods, reducing waste, and the develop- 
ment of more equitable and stable markets to meet both domestic 
and international needs. 

Meeting fuelwood needs. Resolution of the fuelwood crisis 
through a combination of conservation measures, encouraging 
use of alternative fuels and development of new fuelwood 
resources. (This problem applies more to seasonal forests and 
woodlands than to rain forests.) 

Conserving forest species and ecosystems. Improving the 
protected areas systems in tropical forests in the interest of 
maintaining biodiversity, stabilizing local climate and hydro- 
logy, and providing the goods and services that human inhabi- 
tants of the forest need. 

Building knowledge and expertise in forest management. 
Providing support for forest research and forestry management 
institutions, with a view to improving standards and developing 
close cooperation between scientists, planners and 

What are the problems? 

The biggest problem is protecting the logged-over forest from 
incursion by agricultural colonists. Clearance after logging 
destroys any opportunities for sustainable management for 
timber. In addition, control of the logging operations represents a 
major difficulty. If carried out carefully, logging need cause little 
damage, but most concessionaires are poorly supervised and 
cause unnecessary damage to watersheds, soils and seedlings. 

The market for timber is unbalanced. The present operation 
favours high volumes of low-value timber, when it should favour 
low volumes of high-value timber. The timber operation must also 
become profitable to those living in or near the forest, as well as to 
distant entrepreneurs. 

To be solved, all these problems need up-to-date information on 
the status of the forest and the market. Programmes of survey, 
research and monitoring must be implemented to give the best 
possible chance of very much-needed success. 


Think globally, act locally 

"We call for a common endeavour and for new norms of 
behaviour at all levels and in the interests of all. The 
changes in attitude, in social values, and in aspirations 
will depend on vast campaigns of education, debate and 
public participation. 

"To this end, we appeal to citizens' groups, to non- 
government organizations, to educational institutions, 
and to the scientific community. They have all played 
indispensable roles in the creation of public awareness 
and political change in the past. They will play a crucial 
part in putting the world on to sustainable development 
paths, in laying the groundwork for Our Common 

*Our Common Future, published by the World Commis- 
sion of Environment and Development in 1987. 

Governments usually have the final say on the fate of tropical 
forests, but for policies to be effective they need the support of the 
people at grass roots level. All too often there are conflicts of 
interest, and all over the world like-minded individuals have 
banded together to create non-governmental organizations 
(ngos) able to put the case for the people. As the twentieth 
century draws to a close, ngos number tens of thousands and 
represent untold millions of members and subscribers - a force to 
be reckoned with. 

No one knows just how many ngos have links with tropical 
forests worldwide, but a 1987 publication from the International 
Tree Project Clearinghouse lists more than 200 in Africa, and 
Friends of the Earth Malaysia has estimated about the same 
number of ngos active in the Asia-Pacific region. They range in 
size from small, local pressure-groups anxious to maintain their 
immediate environment to international organizations such as 
the World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf), with national organiza- 
tions in 25 countries on five continents. 

Many ngos act as pressure-groups, constantly researching for 
new information and lobbying the public and government for 
higher environmental standards and a more discerning approach 
to the exploitation of nature and natural resources. Foremost 
among these is Friends of the Earth (foe), which maintains 
national organizations in 38 countries and an international 
secretariat in London. Foe has been carrying on its tropical rain 
forest campaign since 1985 and is perhaps best known for its 
exposure of the tropical timber trade. By analysing the trade 
statistics, foe has drawn public attention to the main importers 
of tropical timber in Europe. North America and Japan. Today, 
people who buy tropical hardwood timber products in the 
temperate world are much more aware of their responsibilities 
and the issues behind them - largely through foe's pioneering 
work in this area. 

Other non-governmental organizations raise funds to put 
important projects into the field in rain forest countries. Often 
these are very specific, perhaps to protect an important forest or 
reserve, or to survey the status of threatened animals and plants. 
There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of ngos oper- 
ating in this way, but just a few examples will demonstrate the 
type of front-line work being undertaken. 

*Wildlife Conservation International, a division of the New 
York Zoological Society, has projects throughout the tropics. 
Particularly noteworthy is a survey of the forest elephants 
(Loxodonla africana cyclotis) of west-central Africa, where popu- 
lations are estimated to be 400,000 and declining. Similar work in 
Borneo has drawn attention to the declining range of the endemic 
proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus). 

*The Fauna and Flora Preservation Society (ffps) is one of 
the oldest ngos. Founded at the turn of the century and based in 
the United Kingdom, it has an excellent track record in achieving 

conservation in the field. A long-standing commitment to gorilla 
conservation in Rwanda includes fundamental education work, 
as well as the maintenance of protected areas. 

*The Nature Conservancy (tnc) has offices throughout the 
United States, where it has massive land management responsibi- 
lities and environmental databases. Over the past decade tnc has 
assisted local ngos throughout Latin America in setting up 
national data centres and strengthening national conservation 

*The Malayan Nature Society (mns), founded in 1940, has 
pioneered nature conservation in Peninsular Malaysia. As well 
as spearheading education programmes and supporting existing 
reserves such as Taman Negara, mns has taken a lead role in the 
effort to set up a new park in the Endau-Rompin area, one of the 
last strongholds for rhinoceros in the country (see page 161). 

*The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (ncf) is becoming 
increasingly important in a country where rain forests are under 
severe pressures. The Foundation is making a determined effort 
to save the last unspoilt area, in the Oban hills in the south-east of 
the country. Their efforts were rewarded by the recent announce- 
ment of a new national park there (see page 137). 

*The World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf) is undoubtedly the 
best-known international conservation ngo. Over the past 30 
years wwf has spent well over US$100 million on more than 4,000 
projects in 130 countries. Most of these projects have had 
national counterparts in the target country. Wwf's work ranges 
from surveys identifying key areas to species protection, pro- 
tected area establishment and management for conservation. 
Education of young people and training of personnel in nature 
conservation departments have also been high priorities. Over 
the years, wwf has worked closely with lUCN in establishing 
priorities and promoting the objectives of the World Conservation 
Strategy (see page 178). 

Since 1986, tropical forest conservation has been one of wwf's 
three primary goals, but rain forests have been a priority since 
the Fund's inception. One of wwf's first projects, in 1962, 
involved the demarcation of a forest reserve in Madagascar. 
Today work continues in key rain forest areas such as Manu in 
Peru, which contains 10 percent of the world's bird species, and 
Korup in Cameroon, a rich forest area that survived the 
shrinking of the rain forests in the last Ice Age. Other projects 
include collaboration with Wildlife Conservation International 
in protection of the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) in Zaire; conser- 
vation of the Impenetrable (Bwindi) forest in Uganda, the Sapo 
forest in Liberia and the Tai forest in Cote d'lvoire, the cross- 
border La Amistad national park in Panama and Costa Rica; and 
development of a management plan for Xishuangbanna Reserve, 
one of the last rain forests in China. Wwf also helps to prepare 
conservation strategies, notably in the states of Malaysia, and, in 
the same region, has supported pioneering work on the impact of 
logging on wildlife. 

*The World Conservation Union (iucn) is unique in being both 
a non-governmental and an inter-governmental organization. As 
a union of governments and ngos in 120 countries, its task is to 
promote conservation by building consensus of thought and 
action around the world (see back flap for details). lucN has a 
Tropical Forest Programme, supported by Sweden, that concen- 
trates on strategic planning of conservation, involving enough 
projects to show how strategies can be turned into reality. Field 
projects concentrate on reconciling conservation requirements 
with those of people living in forest areas, and special emphasis is 
given to the development of multiple-use buffer zones. This 
represents one of the great challenges to iucn - demonstrating in 
the real world that the concepts and strategies developed in 



collaboration with advisors can be translated into genuine 
conservation action. 

In coming decades the role of ngos will be more and more crucial 
to the success of conservation and development projects. Govern- 
ments and development banks increasingly need field intelli- 
gence to make sure that money is being well spent on the ground. 
Only when projects meet the needs of local people will the result 
be sustained in the long term. This applies as much to the 
establishment of a national park as it does to a new hydroelectric 
scheme. Over the past decade the world has seen ngos spring out 
of nowhere to reach out to millions through the world's media. In 
some cases massive development programmes have been halted in 
their tracks. In the 1990s and beyond, both nogs and governments 
must work together, building understanding from the early 
planning stage. In this way development money will be better 
spent, people in developing nations will be better served, and the 
rain forests will be better protected. 

Ngos and the World Bank 

The World Bank has for decades been a popular whipping-boy for 
NGOS, and justifiably so. The world's biggest spender in develop- 
ment assistance has an unhealthy reputation for being secretive 
and environmentally insensitive. For years projects with budgets 
of tens of millions of dollars were funded with only the minimum 
of environmental impact assessment. "Bank-bashing" by ngos 
fed up with the waste, environmental destruction and all-too- 
often negligible benefits to rural people of the Bank-subsidized 
roads, mines, dams and cattle ranches, rose to a crescendo in the 
early 1980s. 

Then in 1987, the World Bank set up its own Environment 
Department, pledging to work more closely with ngos and take 
account of their grass-roots knowledge and community-level 
sensitivity. The Department has taken steps to find out where the 
world's richest and most threatened sites for biological diversity 
are located, sites that environmentalist Norman Myers dubbed 
the world's "hot-spots". In 1987 the World Bank convened a Task 
Force on Biological Diversity, with over 15 ngos of international 
standing, including lUCN and WWF. 

The World Bank pointed out that some US$50 million per year 
are potentially available for conservation from international 
donors, but that the bottlenecks in distributing these funds are in 
preparing good projects with integrated development and conser- 
vation objectives, and finding institutions strong enough to 
manage the projects. 

Ngos can help with both of these aspects, and have been doing 
so in recent years. lucN, wWF and others have been assisting in 
the preparation of project proposals and working in partnership 
with local institutions to put them into practice. 

Madagascar, one of the world's most important "hot-spots", 
provides a good example of such cooperation. lucN has been 
working with the World Bank to develop management pro- 
grammes from the Andasibe and Ankarafantsika protected areas, 
and WWF has fielded a small team of experts to assist the 
government in identifying new sites and surveying the status of 
existing parks and reserves. 

Ngos and the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) 

Meetings of the tfap participants are open to observers from 
ngos; iucn, the International Institute for Environment and 
Development and the World Resources Institute have partici- 
pated since the Plan's inception, with wwf joining more recently. 
An important contribution by these ngos has been to prepare 
guidelines on the conduct of forest sector reviews, particularly in 
connection with the assessment of ecosystem conservation and 
the rights of forest-dwelling people. 

Outside these meetings, however, relations with ngos have 
been stormy. Many grass-roots organizations have seen the tfap 
approach as too arrogantly patronising, both in its design and 

implementation. They feel that the architects of forest sector 
plans at the national level should take much greater heed of local 
communities and forest dwellers. Governments, through their 
policies, are forcing people into the forests to survive, then 
chastising them for what they do there. Yet they offer no realistic 
alternatives. Too many national Tropica! Forestry Action Plans 
seem to do little more than fan the fiames, ngos say. 

Major donors under the tfap recognize the difficulties they face 
in spending money sensibly and to the best effect. Increasingly 
they are seeking partnerships with ngos to assist them at the 
local level. 

Swapping debts for nature 

Until the early 1980s the developing countries enjoyed modest, 
but steady, growth in their economies. But since then the trend 
has been reversed. Worst hit was black Africa. In 1980 the 
average income per head was US$560 per head; in 1988 it was 
down to US$450. A major reason has been governmental misman- 
agement of national economies, and the biggest single area of 
misjudgment has been in international borrowing and lending. 

Between 1980 and 1986 the total external debt of developing 
countries nearly doubled to over US$1 trillion. Although the rate 
of growth in debt has since slowed, the cost of repayments 
remains a massive burden, particularly for countries in Africa 
and Latin America. Recent World Bank statistics reveal how 
great the problem is: in 1989 the developing countries paid US$52 
million more to the industrial world than they received in 
development assistance. 

This anomaly is partly due to falling commodity prices: cocoa, 
rice, tea and sugar values peaked in the mid-1970s and have 
halved in value since. More importantly, the repayments on 
international debts are crippling. In Africa south of the Sahara, 
long-term debt was 58 percent of the region's gnp in 1986, and debt 
repayments took up 21 percent of the region's export income. 
Similarly in Latin America, the 1986 debt was 46 percent of its 
gnp, and debt service cost 30 percent of exports. 

Among the hidden costs of the debt crisis are the environmen- 
tal ones. As debtor nations suffer "structural readjustment" (for 
example, economic stringency measures) imposed by the Inter- 
national Monetary Fund, programmes for conservation of eco- 
systems and wildlife are among the first to go under. Throughout 
the world, many rain forest parks are protected only on paper; the 
money needed to manage them properly is simply not available. 
In 1984 in an article in the New York Times, Thomas E. Lovejoy 
formerly of wwF-us explained an idea that has helped to pull some 
parks back from the brink of obscurity. 

While the world's bankers were struggling to reschedule debts 
and build allowances for bad debts into their annual reports, 
environmental ngos were exploring ways of shouldering some of 
the debt burden themselves in return for concessions on national 
park infrastructure. This has proved attractive to some coun- 
tries, for local currency can be used in the reserves, thus saving 
valuable foreign exchange. The first deal was struck in Bolivia in 
1987 where Conservation International, an NGO based in Wash- 
ington DC, acquired Bolivian debt of US$650,000, discounted to 
$100,000, from a Swiss bank. Conservation International then 
paid off the debt and in exchange the government of Bolivia set up 
a 14,000 square-kilometre (5,400 square-mile) buffer zone around 
the 1,340 square-kilometre (517 square-mile) Beni Biological 
Reserve. In Costa Rica and Ecuador wwF-us and The Nature 
Conservancy respectively acquired debts in return for long-term 
local currency bonds which they can use for conservation. 


The crystal ball 

People the world over know that if the rain forests are cleared 
humanity will lose untold benefits and suffer environmental 
degradation never before experienced. What are the achievable 
objectives and what new initiatives can be put in train? 

* Move the planning of tropical forest use higher up the political 
agenda in tropical countries and ensure that a cross-sectoral 
approach is developed to integrate forestry with industry, 
agriculture, energy, immigration and other development plans. 

* Set aside at least 15 percent of each country's original coverage 
of rain forest as totally protected areas, to ensure continuity of all 
forest ecosystems. In heavily populated areas with rich and 
fertile soils, lower targets of five or ten percent may be practical, 
but some other countries with large areas that can support only 
forest ecosystems could achieve 20 percent or more. 

* Plan and manage the protected area system to conserve the 
populations of all rain forest species. 

* Maintain a further 30-60 percent of larger nations' forests in a 
permanent, physically and legally secure forest estate. This will 
ensure supplies of timber for national development and of forest 
products for development at local levels, as well as securing 
water supplies to cities and agriculture, and allowing continuity 
in the traditional lifestyles of forest-dwelling people. 

* Use plantation forests to produce much of the world's utility- 
grade timber and pulping wood, and to restore already degraded 
rain forest lands. The value of plantations as buffers around 
protected areas should be exploited more fully. 

The two most important global initiatives to bring these 
objectives to reality are the Tropical Forestry Action Plan and 
the International Tropical Timber Agreement, both well under 
way (see page 191). Waiting in the wings are more programmes 
intended to complement and reinforce these existing endeavours. 

The focus of the 1980 World Conservation Strategy (see page 
178) assimied that reinforcing strategies on population, energy, 
food supply, economic development and human rights would also 
be prepared. Such support was not forthcoming and so the new 
Strategy for the 1990s, now being launched, takes a broader 
approach. It will tackle such issues as global climate warming, 
acid rain and the destruction of the ozone layer - all of which 
affect rain forests - in an ambitious, yet practical, way. 

In 1982 the third World Congress on National Parks and 
Protected Areas in Bali, Indonesia, pledged to expand the global 
network of protected areas and to improve their management. In 
1992 the fourth Congress will be convened in Venezuela. As the 
scope for new protected areas begins to shrink towards the end of 
this century, the 1992 Congress, destined to be the largest ever, 
will focus on resolving the conflicts inherent in conservation and 
the likely impact of global warming on the protected areas. 

International conventions on wildlife trade, wetlands and 
World Heritage sites are able to boast of considerable success. 
Now a new Convention on Biological Diversity is being prepared 
by lUCN with the intention of laying down an obligation for all 
nations to ensure the conservation of their species and natural 
habitats, with financial assistance where necessary. 

lucN, the World Resources Institute and unep, in cooperation 
with more than 20 collaborating agencies, are developing a 
Global Biodiversity Strategy to tackle head-on the problem of 
disappearing species. It will identify ways to bring the benefits of 
conservation to local people, encourage better laws, and focus 
finance and international cooperation on the problem. 

The culmination of these and many other initiatives to save the 
world's biological heritage will be the United Nations Environ- 
ment Conference to be held in Brazil in 1992. Taking place 20 
years after the Stockholm United Nations Conference that did so 
much to raise environmental awareness, it must now place 
environmental management at the forefront of political action. 
This will bear fruit only if it is supported at every level of society. 
Governments and conservation organizations cannot take imila- 
teral action and succeed. They need help and collaboration from 
ordinary people around the world. 



■c >• 




I V 

■ /..v 

•^ IVv^ 

^.- -r / 



In central Brazil, the Xingii National Park in which these Indians live offers them only limited protection from outside interference. 


arboreal - of trees; in the trees; tree-like. 

aroid member of the plant family Araceae (the arum family). 
biomass - the total dry weight of all living organisms in a specified area. 
biosphere - the part of the earth's surface, including the oceans and the 
lower atmosphere, in which life exists. 

biosphere reserve - conservation area in which an ecosystem character- 
istic to at least one specific region of the world's natural history is 
preserved for monitoring and scientific research. 

biackwater river - river that is stained by rotting vegetation, and is thus 
black in colour. 

bromeliad - member of an ancient family of trees, the Bromeliaceae; 
today's best known variant is the pineapple. 

buttress root root that grows from the trunk of a tree above the ground, 
which provides support and increases the area over which nutrients are 
absorbed from the soil. 

caatinga - a type of rain forest (also referred to as a heath forest) which 
consists of stunted trees growing on nutrient-poor, sandy soil. 
cauliferous - budding on the trunk, as opposed to putting out buds and 
flowers on branches and branchlets. 

coevolution - process by which, over millions of years, two species 
gradually adapt to each other in a way that is advantageous (and 
sometimes eventually vital) to both. 

conifer - tree of the order of gymnosperms, which bear cones to reproduce: 
typical of the order are firs, pines and yews; almost all are evergreen. 
cycad - plant of the order of gymnosperms, similar to the conifers but 
resembling palms or ferns. 

dipterocarp - tree of the family Dipterocarpaceae; many are natives of 
Southeast Asia, and have large, leathery leaves and brightly coloured 
flowers. Dipterocarps flower infrequently, maybe once in every five years. 
ecosystem - organization of vegetation and wildlife within a specific 
climatic zone. 

endemism - in this book, the property of being found only in a specified 
region and nowhere else in the world; the adjective, also given this 
specialized meaning in this book, is endemic. 

epiphyte - plant that grows on another plant (or, rarely, an animal) 
without taking nourishment from its host, using it instead as the means to 
obtain nutrients from a position it could otherwise not reach. 
greenhouse gas - gas in the earth's atmosphere known to contribute to 
global warming. 

gymnosperm - member of an ancient, even primitive, group of plants of 
which the seeds are not enclosed in an ovary; the term literally means 
"naked seed"; major gymnosperm tree families include the conifers and 
the cycads. 

heath forest - forest of relatively stunted growth due to the absence of 
essential nutrients in the soil, or to altitude. 

hunter-gatherers - people who obtain their food, and much else of their 
livelihood, by hunting wildlife or gathering vegetable food from the 
natural environment. 

igapo - of the Amazon Basin; a type of lowland rain forest that is 
periodically flooded by a biackwater river. 
leach out - drain out as liquid percolates through. 
mycorrhizal fungi - fungi that attach themselves to roots and then 
reach out for decomposing leaves on the forest floor, channelling 
nutrients from the decomposition back to the roots. 
New World in general terms, the Americas and Oceania. 
Old World in general terms, Eurasia (including the Indian subconti- 
nent) and Africa (including Madagascar). 

photosynthesis - chemical reaction by which plants combine carbon 
dioxide from the air with water from the soil to make energy-rich glucose, 
releasing excess oxygen into the atmosphere. 

prop root - root put out from the trunk on or above ground level to 
provide support to the tree for vertical growth. 
rattan various species of climbing palm. 

refugia - areas in which varieties of plant and animal life are particularly 
diverse and plentiful, a situation that is thought to result from a 
fortuitous escape by such areas from the effects of the last Ice Age. 
root mat - spongy mass of entwined roots and rootlets (with other 
vegetable and fungal matter) that covers the floor of some rain forests. 
saprophyte plant that grows and feeds on rotting vegetable matter, 
generally on the forest floor. 

saprotroph - organism (particularly an insect, but also a fungus or 
bacterium) that feeds on rotting vegetable matter. 

shifting cultivation - system of agriculture that depends on farming an 
area of cleared forest for a short period, pehaps even a few years, until the 
soil is virtually unproductive, before moving on to clear another area of 
forest for the purpose. 

soil nutrient mineral substance found in the soil that is used by plants 
for growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium; 
rain forest soils are notably lacking in many of these. 
stolon - also known as a runner; a stem that grows along the ground and 
produces roots and shoots from the nodes or tip. 

symbiosis - relationship between organisms that contributes to the well- 
being of both and harms neither. 
toxin - a natural poison. 

transmigrant agricultural worker (and his family) officially encour- 
aged by the government to move into a forested area, clear it, and farm it. 
varzea - of the Amazon Basin; a type of lowland rain forest that is 
periodically by a Whitewater river. 

Whitewater river river that contains considerable quantities of silt 
which may be deposited on a floodplain when in spate. 


Italic page numbers refer to the main 
reference, while those in bold refer to 
picture or map captions. 

Acacia mangium 184 

Achatina fuHca 139 

Acre 40 

African forest elephant 93, 136, 142 

African grey parrot 138 

African harrier hawk 84 

Agalychnis spurrelU 89 

Agathis spp. 172, 187 

Agent Orange 120, 159 

agouti 50, 55, 79 

agriculturalists, 94-5 

Albizia spp. 184 

Aloualta spp. 133 

Alouatta caraya 53 

Alsophila armata 49 

Altamira 44, 112 

Amazon Basin 110-29 

Amazona versicolor 109 

Amazonia see Amazon Basin 

Amblyornis macgregoriae 171 

American brazilwood 131 

Amerindians 116, 127. 131 

Amorphophallus titanum 160 

Amorphophallus variabilis 54. 72 

Amuesha Indians 122 

Andaman islands 155 
Andamanese 155 

Andohahela Integral Nature Res. 149 
Angreacum sesquipedale 72, 147 
ant 54 

army 84. 86 

Azteca 65 

driver 84. 86 

leaf cutter 83, 113 
anteater 50 

pygmy 86 

tarn ad ua 49 

tree 86 
antelope, royal 53. 93 
ant-plants 16. 54. 58 
Anthocephalus chinensis 184 
Anthurium salviniae 67 
apes 48 

Araucaria spp. 24, 48. 172 
Arctocebus calabarensis 84 
Aristolochia spp. 72, 82 
armadillo 50 
aroids 66 

giant 67 
arowana 113 
arrow-poison frog 75 
Asante Indians 94 
Asian elephant 157. 160 
Asmat Indians 173 
Astrocaryum standleyanum 55 
Ateles paniscus 89 
Atlantic coast of Brazil 130-5 
Aucoumea klaineana 38, 140 

Australia 174-5 
Australian sugar glider 89 
Automeris rubrescens 85 
Avicennia nitida 22 
aye-aye 148 


Babinga Pygmies 144 
Bactris gasipaes 187 
Bactris sp. 30 
Baka Pygmies 92 
bald uakari 47 
balsa tree 70, 72 
bamboo 92 

giant 147 
Bambusa wrayi 92 
banana 76 

wild 184 
banded leaf monkey 160 
Bangladesh 154 
Bannerman's turaco 31 
banteng 157 

Bantu tribes 90, 93. 94. 144 
Barbados 108 
barbels 168 

Barco. President Virgilio 120 
Barisan Selatan National Park 41 
Barro Colorado Island Nature Res. 103 
Basse Terre National Park 108 
bat 9. 70, 72. 73. 76. 88 

fruit 76 

giant fruit-eating 78 

Indian fruit 77 

insect-eating 84 

vampire 85 
Bates, Henry 46 
Balrachostomus moniliger 153 
bauxite mining 121 
bearded pig 169 
bee 31, 93 

bumble 53 

euglossine 81 

guard 53 

pinhoie-wood-borer 184 

scarab 71 

shoot-borer 184 
Beni Biological Reserve 193 
Benin 137 

Bertholletia excelsa 79. 81. 131 
Bignonia spp. 68 
biosphere reserves 181 
Bipalium rewense 53 
bird waves 84 
birds of paradise 78, 172 

lesser 9 
birdwing butterflies 82 
black colobus monkey 76 
■black howler monkey 53 
black palm 55 
black spider monkey 89 
black-throated green warbler 104 
blue duiker 141 
blue-yellow macaw 116 
Bolivia 112. 124 
Bombus transversalis 53 


bonnet macaque 153 
Bosgaurus 151. 152, 157 
Bos javanicus 157 
Bos sauveli 157 
Boshe-Kawango Park 139 
Botanic Gardens Conservation 

Secretariat 32 
bowerbirds 78 

Brachyteles arachnoides 133 
Bradypus torquatus 134 
Brazil 112-16 
Brazil nut tree 79, 81. 131 
Brazilian Agriculture Research 

Agency 42 
Brazilian rosewood 131 
bromeliads 66. 74 
bronzy hermit hummingbird 81 
Brown. Keith 126 
brown- throated parakeet 116. 120 
Brundtland. Gro Harlem 178 
Buceros bicornis 153 
Bufo marinus 174 
Bufo periglenes 75 
Burma see Myanma 
Burma Selection System 183 
bush baby 88 

needle-clawed 83 
butterflies 126. 131. 132 

birdwing 82 

eyed silkmoth 85 

ithomid 81 

Queen Alexandra's birdwing 53, 


swallowtail 56 

caatinga 16, 56 
Cacajao calvus 47 
Cacatua haematuropygia 164 
caciques 55 

Caesaipina echinata 131 
calabash tree 73 
Callicebus spp. 133 
Calliihea leprieuri 132 
Calliihea sapphira 132 
Callitkrix spp. 133 
Calophyllum spp. 172 
Calptura cristata 131 
Cambodia 158 
Cameroon 138. 143 
Canis aureus 153 
caiinonball tree 76 
canopy 14. 17, 20, 61. 64 
Caprolagus hispidus 154 
capuchin 80, 86 

pale-fronted 133 
capybara 50 
carbon dioxide 102. 126 
Caribbean 108-9 

Caribbean Conservation Assoc. 108 
Casearia corymbosa 72 
cassava 136 
cassowaries 172 
Castanospermum australe 186 
cat-eyed snake 85 
caterpillars 139 
catfish 74 

cattle ranching 36. 42-3. 114-16, 120 
Cebu 163 

Cebuella pygmaea 83 
Cebus spp. 133 

Cecropia spp. 63. 64. 65. 180, 183, 184 
Cedrela sp. 124 
Ceiba pentandra 18, 136 
centipede, giant 53 
Central Africa 140-5 
Central African Project 143 
Central America 102-7 
Cephalophus monlicola 141 
Cephalostachyum vigueri 147 
Cercestis spp. 68 
Cercopithecus spp. 142 
cerrado 127 
Ceylon frogmouth 153 
Chaemaeloeo parsoni 9 
chamaeleon 147 

giant 9 
charcoal 45 
chemical defence 80 

of plants 52 
chestnut. Moreton Bay 186 

chestnut-sided warbler 104 
Chiang Mai Declaration 186 
chimpanzee, pygmy 136, 142 
Chiropoles satanas 119 
Choeropsis liberiensis 93, 136 
Cholnaiks 153 
Chondropython viridis 87 
Cinchona spp. 186 
Cissus spp. 68 
civet 86 

Malabar large-spotted 152 
climbing plants 68-9 
cloud forest see montane forest 
Clusia uvilana 72 
coca 120. 124 
cocaine 120 
cockatoos 50, 172 

pabu 173 

red-vented 164 
cocoa 136 
cocoa tree 70 
Coffea spp. 187 
coffee 144, 187 

Collossoma macropomum 113 
Colobus badius 136 
colobus monkey 136 
Colobus satanas 76 
Colombia 112. 120 
colugos 88 
comet orchid 147 
common marmoset 133 
Congo 143 
Connarus sp. 14 
Conocarpus erectus 22 
Conrana goUalh 53 
conservation 176-195 
continental drift 48 
Copaifera langsdorfia 30 
Corallus caninus 87 
Corypha elala 62 
Cote d'lvoire 136 
cotingas 78 
cotton 136 

Couroupita gianensis 78 
cowbird. giant 54 
crane hawk 84 
Crescentia cujete 73 
crocodiles 171 

mugger 153 
Crocodylus nouoaguineae 171 
Crocodylus palustris 153 
Crocodylus porosus 171 
Cross River National Park 137 
crown shyness 61 
crowned pigeons 172 
Cryploprocta ferox 86 
Cuba 108 
Cuon alpinus 152 
Cupiennius coccineus 87 
curare 117 

Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve 122 
curd 135 

Cyathea contaminans 49 
cyclones 52 
Cyclopes didactylus 86 
Cyclops Mountain Nature Reserve 172 
Cynocephalus variegatus 88 


Dacrydium spp. 24 
Daemonorops hallieriana 164 
Daemonorops melanochaetes 164 
Dalbergia nigra 131 
dams 44. 104 
Daniella thurifera 136 
Darwin, Charles 46. 131, 147 
Dasyurus maculaius 174 
Daubentonia madagascariensis 148 
decomposers 58, 60 
decomposition 58-60 
defence mechanisms 

chemical in animals 84-6 

colour in flowers 72 
Dendrobates pumilio 75 
Dendroica pensylvanica 104 
Dendroica virens 104 
Dendrolagus matschiei 50 
Dendrolagus ursinus 171 
diamonds 136 

Dicerorhinus sumatrensis 160 
Dioscorea rotunda 136 

dipterocarps 20-1. 70. 78. 182, 183. 187 

Dismorphia amphione 132 

Dja Reserve 143 

dog, wild 152. 153 

dolphin, pink river 44 

Dominica 108, 109 

Doratogonus sp. 53 

double-jointed hawk 84 

double-toothed kite 84 

dove. Negritos fruit 164 

Draco volans 89 

Dracula bella 72 

drill 136 

drip tips 60. 66 

Ducula bicolor 78 

Ducula mindorensis 164 

dugong 173 

Dugong dugong 173 

duikers 139 

Dumoga-Bone National Park 168 

durian 92, 187 

Durio zibelhinus 187 

Durrell. Gerald 32 

dusky-legged guan 135 

dusky titti 133 

eagle. Philippine 162 

East Africa 140-5 

Eastern lowland gorilla 142 

Ecuador 112. 120. 122 

EEC 188 

Elaeis guineensis 136. 187 

elephants 142. 154, 183. 192 

African 93. 142 

Asian 157, 160 
Elephas maximus 153, 157, 160 
Embera people 106 
emerald tree boa 87 
emergents 14. 61 
Endau-Rompin controversy 160 
epiphyllums 66 

epiphytes 16. 48, 52. 56. 60. 66-7, 68 
Equatorial Guinea 143 
Erigpatsca tribesman. Amazonia 11 
Eriosceiis emarginata 71 
eucalypt forest 50. 135. 174, 184 
Eucalyptus deglupta 184 
Eucalyptus grandis 184 
Eucalyptus urophylla 184 
Eugeissona utilis 18 
Eumaes mynas 50 
Euoticus elegantulus 83 
Eusideroxylon zwageri 62 
Evolution of the forests 48-55 
extra-floral nectaries 80 
eyed silkmoth 85 

Fauna and Flora Preservation Society 

(PFPs) 192 
Felis wiedii 86 
ferns, giant 49 
Ficus spp. 63, 68 
figs 76. 78 

strangler 62. 63, 78 
fire 13. 18. 104. 126. 175 

catfish 74 

fruit-eating 74. 113 

seed dispersal by 74 

seed-eating 113 
flesh eaters 86-7 
flooding 36, 44 
flowering 70-3 
flying dragon 89 
flying foxes 78 
flying frogs 88. 89 
flying gecko 88 
flying lizards 88 
flying snakes 88 
flying squirrels 88 
Food and Agriculture Organization 

(fao) 96 120. 190 
Ford, Henry 112 
forest dwellers 27. 180 
fossa 86 
fox, Indian 153 
French Guiana 116 
Friends of the Earth (foe) 38. 96 
Friends of the Earth Malaysia 192 

frog 74 

arrow-poison 75 

Eleutherodactylus 75 

flying 88. 89 

glass 85 

Goliath 53 

leaf-folding 85 

tree 47. 74 
fruit eaters 76-9 
fruit-eating fish 74. 113 
fruitcrow. red-ruffed 135 
fruiting 70-3 
Fulvus albifrons 149 
fungi 25 
fungi, root 66 
fungus gnats 72 


Gabon 143 
Gala forest 137 
Garcinta mangostana 187 
gaur 151, 152, 157 
gecko, flying 88 
genets 86 
Gentry. Alwyn 32 
Geranospiza caerulescens 84 
gibbons 88. 168 

Kloss's 160 

ginger, wild 72 
glass frogs 85 
Glaucis aenea 81 
Gmelina arborea 184 
Gnetum vine 48. 71 
Gola forest 137 
gold mining 44. 45. 136 
golden bamboo lemur 147 
golden-headed Uon tamarin 133 
golden lion tamarin 133. 134 
golden potto 84 

golden-rumped lion tamarin 133 
golden toads 75 
Goliath frog 53 
Gomez. Juarez 45 
gorillas 9-11. 142 

Eastern lowland 142 

mountain 144 

Western lowknd 139 
Gorilla gorilla benngei 144 
Gorilla gorilla gorilla 139 
Gorilla gorilla grauen 142 
Grande Carajas Programme 44. 114 
grasshoppers 139 
great hornbill 153 
Greater Antilles 108 
green iguana 103 
green tree python 87 
greenhouse effect 34. 181 
greenhouse gas 34. 57. 102. 126 
ground mouse lemur 148 
ground nuts 136 
Guadeloupe 108 

dusky-legged 135 

rusty-margined 135 
guarana20, 117, 187 
guard bee 53 
guenon. suntailed 142 
Guinea 136 

Gunung Mulu National Park 187 
Gumey's pitta 157 
gutta percha 187 
Guyana 116 
Gypohierax angolensis 78 


Hanuman langur 153 
Hapalemur aureus 147 
hare, hispid 154 
Harpagus bidentatus 84 

African harrier 84 

crane 84 
Heliconius charitonius 104 
Hemitragus hylocrius 153 
herbicides 120 

Hevea brasiliensis 29. 82. 187 
hippopotamus, pygmy 93, 136 
Ho Chi Minh 159 
Ho Chi Minh trail 158 
hoatzin 82 


hog. pygmy 154 
honey 31, 92, 93 
hornbill 77, 79, 168. 173. 188 

great 153 
Hoya 68 

Huallaga Valley 124 
humidity 60. 74 
hummingbird 80, 86 

bronzy hermit 81 
hunter-gatherers 28. 90, 92-3 
hurricanes 52. 108. 109 
Hutu agriculturalists 144 
Hyaena hyaena 153 
Hydnophylum spp. 16. 74 
hyena, striped 153 
Hylobales spp. 168 
Hylobates klossii 160 
Hylobates lar 160 
Hyloclchla mustelina 104 
Hymenaea spp. 79 
Hypsipyla grandella 184 


Iban of Sarawak 94 

Ice Ages 50 

igapo 18. 57. 113 

iguana, green 103 

Iguana iguana 103 

India 151-4 

Indonesia, Central 166-9 

Indonesian Transmigration 

Programme 40, 41. 168 
indri 148 
Indri indri 148 
Inia geoffrensis 44 
insect eaters 84-6 
International Conventions on Trade 

in Endangered Species (cites) 194 
International Institute for 

Environment 193 
International Institute for Tropical 

Agriculture (Nigeria) 42 
International Monetary Fund 193 
International Tropical Timber 

Agreement (itta) 190-1. 194 
International Tropical Timber 

Organization see ITTO 
Intsia spp. 172 
Irian Jaya 172 
iron mining 136, 137 
ironwood tree 62 
isapo 14 

ithomid butterfly 81 
ITTO 109, 120, 124. 190-1. 194 
lUCN 32, 38, 142, 143. 151. 178, 183. 190, 

ivory trade 142 


jackal 153 
jaguar 50. 87 
Jale people 173 
Jarak 51 
Jarawa 155 
Jaru 126 
Java 168 

Jessenia bataua 117 
Jesus. Renato de 135 
jhum 154 
junipers 24 
Juniperus spp. 24 


Kalimantan 168 
Kanela Indians 30 

Matschie's tree 50 

tree 48, 50 
kapok 18. 136 

Kayapo Indians 27. 44, 47, 112. 128 
Kayas 145 

keel-billed toucan 77 
kerangas 16 
keystone mutualisms 54 
Khaya ivorensis 136 
Khmer people 157 
Kianjavato 149 
Kilibira 144 
Kilum Project 31 
kinglet calptura 131 
kite, double-toothed 84 

Kloss's gibbon 160 

Knema sp. 17 

Koompassia 14 

Korup National Park 188 

Korup Project 138 

kouprey 157. 158 

Kratatau 51 

Kuna Indians 106 

Kuna Wildlands Project 106 

Kuna Yala Reserve 106 

kwica ishyamba 144 

La Tigra National Park 103 
Laguncularia racemosa 22 
Lamington National Park, 

Queensland 175 
Landolphia sp. 136 
landslides 52. 105. 134 
langur, pig-tailed 160 
Laos 158 
lar gibbon 160 
Lasiosiphon glaucus 31 
latex 29. 82, 124. 187 
leaf eaters 82-3 
leaf-folding frogs 85 
Leea spp. 68 
lemur 48. 83 

golden bamboo 147 

ground mouse 136 

Mayotte lemur 148 

red-ruffed 146 

ring-tailed 148 

ruffed 149 

white-fronted 149 
Lemur catta 148 
Lemur fulvus mayottensis 148 
Leontopithecus chrysomelas 133 
Leontopithecus chrysopygus 133 
Leontopithecus rosalia 133. 134 
leopard 153 

Leptodeira sepentrionalis 85 
Lesser Sunda Islands 168 
lianas 9. 16, 25. 60. 68, 69 
Liberia 136 
light gaps 64-5 
limbe 136 

Lindbergh, Charles 162 
linsangs 86 
Lion King forest 150 
lion-tailed macaque 151 
logging 13. 38-9. 116, 123, 140, 157, 158, 

Lonchocarpus 117 
Lophura halinhensis 157 
Lorentz Nature Reserve 172 
lorises 84, 88 
Lovejoy, Thomas E. 193 
lowland rain forests 16-20, 100 
Loxodonta africana 136 
Loxodonta africana cychtis 93, 192 
Luzon 162 


Macaca pagensis 160 
Macaca radiata 153 
Macaca silenus 151 

bonnet 153 

lion-tailed 151 

Mentawai 160 
Macaranga spp. 64, 183 
Macaulay, Lord 153 
macaw, blue-yellow 116 
MacGregor's bower bird 171 
Macrosolen sp. 73 
Madagascan orchid 72 
Madagascar 146-9 
mahogany 20, 38. 45. 124. 165, 184 

African 136 

Rio Palenque 114 

West African 182 
maize 136 
malachite 104 

Malayan Nature Society 160, 192 
Malaysia 160-1 
Maluku see Moluccas, The 
Man and Biosphere Programme (mab) 

manakins 78 
Manas Tiger reserve 154 

manatee, Senegal 139 

mandrill 53 

mangosteen 187 

mangrove forest 14. 22-3, 50. 100. 159 

manila copal 187 

manior 136 

Manis tricuspis 49 

mantids, 86 

Manu National Park 188 

manuitia palm 30 

Marcgrauia spp. 68 

margay 86 

marmoset 88 

common 133 

pygmy 83 
Masoala peninsular 146 
Massenerhebung effect 100 
Matschie's tree kangaroo 50 
Mbenga Pygmies 93 
Mbuti Pygmies of Zaire 92, 141, 144 
Medici. Emilio 112 
medicines 26, 32, 186 
Mee, Margaret 46 
megapodes 169, 172 
Melursus ursinus 152 
Mendes, Chico 28, 124 
Meru Betiri Reserve 168 
methane 57 
Metroxylon 172 
Microcebus rufus 148 
Mikijenda people 145 
Mindoro scops owl 164 
Mindoro imperial pigeon 164 
Mineragao Rio Norte mine 44, 121 
mining 44 

bauxite 121 

gold 44 

iron 136. 137 
Missouri Botanic Gardens 186 
mistletoe, Sarawak 73 
molas 106 

Moluccas, The 167. 168 

banded leaf 160 

black colobus 76 

black howler 53 

black spider 89 

colobus 136 

howler 48 

Mentawai leaf 160 

proboscis 83, 160. 168. 192 

red howler 133 

spider 88 

squirrel 84, 86 

woolly spider 133 
monkey-eating eagle 162 
monsoon forest 20 
Monstera spp. 68 
Monstera dubia 69 
Mont Alen National Park 143 
montane rain forests 11, 14. 24-5, 64-5, 

Monte Pascoal 132 
Moreton Bay chestnut 186 
moth 84 

Wallace's 147 
Mt Apo 164 
Mt Nimba 137 

Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary 151 
Mulu National Park 188 
Mundanthurai Wildlife Sanctuary 152 
muriqui 133 
mutualism 54 
Myanma 109, 158 
Mycorrhizae spp. 66 
Myers, Norman 96, 193 
mygalomorph spiders 86 
Myrmecodia sp. 58 
Myrmecodia echinata 67 


Nam Choan Dam 156 

Nasalis larvatus 83. 160, 168. 192 

National Geographic Society 186 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric 

Administration (noaa) 98. 99 
Nature Conservancy, The 192. 193 
nectar eaters 80-1 
nectar thieves 80 
Nectophrynoides sp. 137 
needle-clawed bush baby 83 

Negritos of Asia 93 

Negros fruit dove 164 

Neotragus pygmaeus 53, 93 

Nepenthes spp. 16, 24 

Nepenthes rafftesiana 69 

Nephehum lappaceum 187 

New Guinea 170-3 

New York Botanic Gardens 186 

Nicobar Islands 155 

Nicobarese 155 

Nigeria 136, 138 

Nigerian Conservation Foundation 

Nilgiri langur 152 
Nilgiri tahr 153 

Nilgiri Wildlife Sanctuary 152, 153 
nitrogen-fixing bacteria 58 
nomadic agriculturalists 94 
Nosy Mangabe 149 
nutmeg, wild 17 


Oban Hills Project 138 
obeche 184 
Ochroma lagopus 70 
Odzala National Park 143 
oil 122, 177 
oil palm 136. 187 
okapi 142, 192 
Okapia johnstoni 192 
Oku tribe 31 
okume 38, 140 
Onge people 93. 155 
Operation Amazonia 112 
Opisthocomus hoazin 82 
opossums 55 
orang-utans 160. 168 
orange-winged parrot 116 
orchid 66. 70. 71 

comet 147 

Madagascan 72 
Ornithoptera alexandrae 53, 172 
oropendolas 55 
Oroxylum sp. 80 
otter, giant 119 
Otus minorensis 164 
Our Common Future 178, 192 

Palaquium gutta 187 

Palawan island 162 

Palcazu Development Project 122 

pale-fronted capuchin 133 

palm 18. 30 

manuitia 30 

pataua 117 

peach 187 

pupunha 30 

sago 18. 172 

talipot 62 
palm cockatoo 173 
Pan paniscus 136 
Panama Canal 103, 105 
pangolin, tree 89 

African 49 
Panthera onca 87 
Panthera pardus 153 
Panthera tigris 152, 158. 160, 168, 188 
Papilio thoas 104 
Papio leucophaeus 136 
Papio sphinx 53 
Papua New Guinea 172 
parakeet, brown-throated 116, 120 
Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary 152 
Paraserianthes (Albizia) falcataria 184 
parrot 172 

African grey 138 

blue-yellow macaw 116 

orange-winged 116 

St Lucia 109 

Senegal green-yellow 138 

trade 138 
Passifiora spp. 68 
Pataxo Indians 132 
Paullinia cupana 117. 187 
peccary 50, 79 

white-lipped 120 

Penan people 187 
Penelope obscura 135 
Penelope superciliaris 135 


Persea theombromi folia 114 
Peru 112. 120 
pesticides 104. 135 
Petaurus breviceps 80, 89 
Peters. Dr Charles 30 
phalangers, marsupial 50 
Pharomachus mocinno 77 
pheasant, Vietnam 157 
Philippines 162-5 
Phitodendron spp. 68, 69 
Philodendron bipinnatifidum 71 
photosynthesis 57. 60 
Phyllobates lugubris 75 

crowned 172 

pied imperial 78 
Pinus caribaea 184 
Pinus oocarpia 184 
piranha 113 

pitcher plants 16. 24. 68, 69 
Pilhecophaga jefferyi 162 
Pitta gurneyi 157 
pittas 168 

Pofo das Antas Biological Reserve 133 
Podocarpus 24 
Poicephalus senegalus 138 
pollen eaters 80-1 
pollution 104. 122, 181 
Polonoroeste Project 114, 125 
Polyboroides typus 84 
Pongo pygmaeus 160. 168 
porcupine 139 
pottos 83. 88 

Pourouma cecropodiaefoli 117 
Prance, Ghillean 30 
predators 84-7 
prehensile tail 88. 89 
Presbytis entellus 153 
Presbytia johnii 152 
Presbytis melophos 160 
Presbytis potemiani 160 
Proboseiger aterrimus 172 
Psittacus erithacus 138 
Pteronura brasiliensis 119 
Pteropus giganteus 77 
PtiUnopus arcanus 164 
Ptychozoon kuhli 88 
Puerto Rica 109 
Pygmies 94. 142 

African 92, 93 

Babinga 144 

Baka 92 

hunter-gatherers 90 

Mbenga 93 

Mbuti of Zaire 92. 141, 144 
pyrethrum 144 
Pyroderus scutatus 135 
python, green tree 87 


quetzal 77 
Quiche Indians 104 
quinine 144, 186 
quoll, spotted- tailed 174 


Raffiesia spp. 68 
Rafflesia arnoldii 9. 160 
rambutan 92, 187 
Rampkastos sulfuratus 77 
Ranomafana 149 
rattans 30, 50. 68, 164, 186-7 
Rauvolfia 186 
red-ruffed fruitcrow 135 
refugia 50, 188 
resins 187 
Rhaphidophora 68 

Indian 154 

Javan 158. 168 

Sumatran 160, 161 
Rhinoceros sondaicus 158. 168 
Rhinoceros unicornis 154 
Rhizophora macronata 22 
Rhizophora mangle 22 
Rhizophora racemosa 22 
Rhizophora typica 22 
Rhyticeros spp. 188 
Rio Palenque mahogany 114 
Rondonia 40. 99, 125 
root fungi 66 


buttress 17, 20. 62 

mangrove 22. 62 

prop 62 

stilt 62 
rotenone 117 

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew 186 
rubber 29. 187 
rubber tappers 28 
rubber tapping 29, 124 
rubber tree 

African 136 

Brazilian 29. 82 
rusty- margined guan 135 
Ruvubu 144 
Rwanda 144 

Sabah 13. 162 

Saguinas midas 120 

St Lucia 109 

Saint-Hilarie, Auguste de 135 

saki. southern bearded 119 

Sakuddei Indian 117 

Salonga National Park (Zaire) 143 

Samunsam Reserve, Sarawak 18-19 

Sao Tome 51. 143 

Sapo National Park 137 

saprotrophs 58 

Sarawak mistletoe 73 

savanna 127 

Scaphidura oryzivora 54 

scarab beetle 71 

Scimper 14 

Scindapsus 68 

Scolopendra subspinipes 53 

sea cows 139 

secondary forest 20. 51. 180 

seed banks 33 

seed dispersal 70 

animal 51 
seed eaters 76-9, 80 
seed thieves 80 
seedling strategies 63 
Semang of Malaysia 92. 93 
Sentinelese 155 
seringurios 28 
shaman 117 

shifting cultivators 28, 40-2, 90. 95 
Shipstern Reserve in Belize 104 
shola forest 15], 153 
Shompens 155 
siamangs 88 
Sierra Leone 136, 137 
Sierra Leone frankincense 136 
silk-cotton tree 18 
Simias concolor 160 
Sinharaja (Lion King) forest 150 
Siproete stelenes 104 
Sinono of Bolivia 92. 94 
sitatunga 141 

slash-and-burn agriculture 40, 90, 94 
sloth 50, 88 

maned 134 
sloth bear 152 

snail, giant African land 139 
snake 55, 86 

cat-eyed 85 

emerald tree boa 87 

aying 88 

green tree python 87 

viper 9 
soil erosion 34. 35, 42, 104, 142. 154 
Sooretama National Biological 

Reserve 135 
SOS Atlantic Forest Foundation 130 
Southeast Asia, mainland 156-60 
species diversity 20, 32, 50. 62 
spider monkeys 88 

mygalomorph 86 

wandering 87 
spiderhunters 84 
sponges, freshwater 74 
spotted-tailed quoll 174 
squirrel 50 

flying 88 
squirrel monkey 84. 86 
Sri Lanka 150, 152. 154 
Stanhopea tigrina 66 
stinkbird 82 

strangler figs 62, 63, 78 

striped hyena 153 

Sudanic people 93 

sugar glider 80 

Sulawesi 168 

Sumatra 160-1 

Sumatran rhinoceros 160, 161 

sunbirds 86 

Sundarbans Tiger Reserve 152 

suntailed guenon 142 

Surinam 116 

Sus barbalus 169 

Sus salvanius 154 

swallowtail butterflies 56 

swamp forest 

freshwater 18 

peat 18-19 
swidden agriculture 40-2. 95 
Swielenia macrophylla 38. 124. 184 
symbolism 54 
Symphonia globiulifera 20 

Tai National Park 137 

talipot palm 62 

Taman Negara National Park 

(Malaysia) 20 
tamandua anteater 49, 89 
Tamandua mexicana 49, 86 
tamarin 80. 88 

golden-headed lion 133 

golden lion 133. 134 

goiden-rumped lion 133 

red-handed 120 

saddle-backed 84 
tambaqui 113 
tampoi 92 
Tanzania 142 
tapir 50 

Malayan 160 
Tapirus indicus 160 
tarantulas 86 
tarsiers 88 

Tauraco bannerman 31 
tavy agriculture 147 
Tayassu pecari 120 
teak 38, 158. 184 
Teclona grandis 38. 158, 184 
Temuan of Malaysia 94 
tenkil 171 

Tennessee warbler 104 
Terminalia superba 136 
termites 57. 58. 84, 139 
Tetrastigma spp. 68 
Thailand 109, 158 
Theobroma cacao 70 
Thoas swallowtail 104 
thrush, wood 104 

Thung Yai Naresuan Nat. Res.156 
tiger 152, 153, 154, 160. 168. 188, 

timber 28-9. 36. 158, 182-3 

see also logging 
Tityra 72 

cane 174 

golden 75 
toucan 55, 77. 78 

keel-billed 77 
Tragelaphus spekei 141 
Transamazonia Highway 40, 112 
trans-Gabon railway 144 
tree anteater 86 
tree fern 48, 49 
tree frogs 47, 74 
tree kangaroo 48 

black 171 
tree life cycles 62-3 
tree pangolin 89 
tree travel 67. 88-9 
Trichechus senegalensis 139 
Trigona 72 

Trinidad and Tobago 109 
Triplochiton scleroxylon 184 
Trobriands 173 
trogon 9 
Tropical Forestry Action Plan 

(TFAP)190, 191. 193, 194 
tropical mantids 86 
Tucurui dam 44 
Tupi-Guarani 131 

Tutsi 144 
Twa tribe 144 


Ujung Kulon National Park 168 
United Nations Conference on Trade 

and Development (unctad) 190, 
United Nations Development 

Programme (undp) 190 
United Nations Environment 

Programme (unep) 178. 194 
uranium 136 

Urea-Wau-Wau Indians 30 
USAID 149 
uvilla palm 117 

vampire bats 85 

Varecia variegata rubra 146 

Varecia vartegatus 149 

vdrzea forests 14. 18. 57, 90, 94. 128 

Venezuela 112, 116-20 

Vermivora peregrina 104 

Vietnam 157. 158, 159 

Vietnam pheasant 157 

viper 9 

Virola sp. 124 

Viuerra megaspila civetina 152 

viviparous toad 137 

Vulpes bengalensis 153 

vulture, palm nut 78 


Wallace. Alfred Russel 46. 147 
Wallace's moth 147 
wandering spider 87 
Waorani Indians 122 
water 103 

pollution 104 
recycling of 35 
role of 74-5 
West Africa 136-9 
West African mahoganies 182 
Western lowland gorillas 139 
white-fronted lemur 149 
white-lipped peccaries 120 
wild banana 184 
wild dog 152, 153 
wild ginger 72 
Wildlife Conservation International 

wood as timber and fuel 28-9 
wood thrush 104 
woodpeckers 50. 86. 168 
woolly spider monkey 133 
World Bank 42, 44, 112, 124. 125. 135, 

146, 188. 190. 193 
World Commission on Environment 

and Development 178 
World Congress on National Parks 

and Protected Areas 194 
World Conservation Strategy 178, 190. 

192. 194 
World Conservation Strategy for the 

1990s 194 
World Conservation Union see lUCN 
World Health Organization (who) 

World Rainforest Movement 38 
World Resources Institute 190, 193, 

World Wide Fund for Nature (wwf) 

32, 38, 120. 145, 149. 172, 
178. 186. 190. 192 

Xanthopan morgani praedicta 147 
Xingu River 90, 112 
Xishuangbanna reserve 192 


yam 92, 136 

Yanomani Indians 29. 94, 129 
Yasuni Wildlife Park 122 
yemane 184 


Zaire 143 

zebra longwing 104 

zebra wood 15 



This book had its origins in a collaborative venture designed by the International 
Union for Conservation of Nature (lUCN) and the World Conservation Monitoring 
Centre (Wcmc) to map the world's rain forests. The mapping project was generously 
sponsored by British Petroleum (BP). and special thanks are due to Dr Eric Cowell, 
formerly of BP Group Environmental Services, who gave great enthusiasm and 
support to the work. 

WcMc's databases form part of the Global Resources Information Database (grid) 
set up by the United Nations Environment Programme's (unep) Global Environ- 
ment Monitoring System (gems) for the compilation of environmental data. In 1988- 
89 a generous donation of computer equipment was made by IBM to grid. Wcmc 
benefited from this donation by receiving an IBM PS/2 Model 80 personal computer, 
which became the heart of the Centre's Geographic Information System (Gis). More 
recently, the Centre has received a generous donation of a graphics workstation 
from Tektronix, which will enable the future expansion of the rain forest database. 

For software, our gratitude goes to the Environmental Systems Research 
Institute (esri) in CaUfornia. EsRi donated the ARC/INFO software used on the ois. 
Jack Dangermond. President of esri, has been particularly helpful and interested in 
wcMC's activities. The UK distributors of ARC/INFO, Doric Limited, have also been 
very helpful. 

A compilation of data such as that presented here would have been impossible 
without the support and encouragement of colleagues in lucN and wcmc; thanks go 
to all of them. In rain forest countries very many people in government departments 
and conservation organizations have generously provided maps, published and 
unpublished information, corrections and advice. 

The unep/gems/grid offices in Nairobi and Geneva require special acknowledg- 
ment. At the Geneva office, researchers Alan Cross, Risto Paivinen and Ron Witt 
have been experimenting in the analysis of weather-satellite data for assessing 
tropical forest cover. Very generously, we have been permitted to use their 
unpublished results for parts of West Africa and southern Amazonia. 

Thanks to Tony Morrison for permission to use the quotation on page 46 which 
comes from Margaret Mee In Search of Flowers of the Amazon Forests published by 
Nonesuch Expeditions. 

Thanks to Elizabeth Kemf for the photograph and feature on Vietnam (page 159) and 
Damien Lewis for the photographs and feature on the Kilum Project (page 31). 

Illustrations by Linden Artists and Michael Woods. 

Picture credits 

Thanks to Gretta Stevens. Wendy Cooper. Terue Tateyama, Michele DePraz and Rosabianca 
Ligios for help with the pictures. 

1: Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman: 2-3: Michae! Fogden/Bnice Coleman: 4-5: Michael Fogden/ 
Bruce Coleman: 6: Sue Cunningham: 8-9: Ken Preston Mafham/Premophotos; 10: Stephen Dalton/ 
Oxford Scientific; 11: Loren Mclntyre; 12-13: Tony Mornson/South American Pictures: 13: (inset) 
Diana Richards; 14: (inset left) Sue Cunningham, (inset middle) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman, 
(inset right) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman; 14-15: K, Wothe/Bruce Coleman; 16-17; Gerald 
Cubitt/Bruce Coleman; 18-19: Loren Mclntyre; 20: Sue Cunningham; 20-21: Gary Retherford/ Bruce 
Coleman; 21: Gerald Cubitt; 22: (left) John Mackinnon/BruceColeman,(right)GeraldCubitt/Bruce 
Coleman; 23: C.B and D. W Frith/Bruce Coleman; 24-25; Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman; 25: (inset 
left) Norman Owen Tomaiin/Bruce Coleman, (inset right) Frieder Sauer/Bruce Coleman; 26-27: 
Robert Harding: 27: (inset left) Sue Cunningham, (inset hght)J.Mackinnon/Bruce Coleman; 28-29: 
Robin Hanbury-Tenison/Robert Harding; 29: (inset) Peter Frey; 30; (top) L.C, Marigo/Bruce 
Coleman, (bottom) Jesco von Puttkaraer/Hutchinson Libran,': 31; Stan Abbott/Deforestation 
Awareness; 32-33: Michael Fogden/Bnjce Coleman; 33: (inset) Peter Addis; 34-35: Loren Mclntvre; 
35: Tony Morrison/South American Pictures: 36-37; Loren Mclntyre; 38; Peter Frey: 39; (top) Peter 
Frey, (bottom) Steve McCurrey /Magnum, 40-41; Peter Frey; 41: (top) J.B. Ratcliffe/wwF. (bottom) 
L.C. Marigo/Bruce Coleman; 42-43; Peter Frey; 44-45; Peter Frey; 45: (top) Abnl Bre/Gamma, 
(bottom) Sue Cunningham; 4647: Loren Mclntyre; 47: (top) Christian Zuber/Bruce Coleman, 
(middle) Sue Cunningham, (bottom) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman; 49: (top) L.C Marigo/Bruce 
Coleman, (bottom) Ken Preston-Mafham/Premophotos; 50: (top) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman, 
(bottom) Brian Coates/Bruce Coleman: 51: Dieter and Mary Plage/Bruce Coleman; 52: Rod 
Williams; 54-55; Philip Sharpe/Oxford Scientific Films; 56-57; Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman; 58; 
O. Langrand/Bruce Coleman; 59: Gerald Cubitt/Bruce Coleman; 60; Michael Fogden/Bruce 
Coleman; 61: Francis Halle; 62: (left ) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman, (right) Mark Boulton/Bruce 
Coleman: 63: (top) Ghillean Prance, (bottom left) Brian Rogers/Biofolos. (bottom right) Carol 
Fameti/Oxford Scientific; 64-65; Stephen Dalton/Oxford Scientific; 65; (top) Heather Angel, (inset 
top) Ken Preston-Mafham/Premaphotos, (inset bottom) Deni Bown; 66; Deni Bown; 66-67: Brian 
Rogers/ Biofotos; 67: Alain Compost/Bruce Coleman; 6&-69; Sue Cunningham; 69: (left) Chris Leigh, 
(right) Royal Geographic Society: 70; J. Mackinnon/Bruce Coleman: 71; (left) G. Gottsberger. (top 
right) Stephen J. Krasemann/Bruce Coleman; 72-73: Ken Preston-Mafham/Premophotos; 73: (inset 
left) Mark Collins, (inset right) Ken Preston-Mafham/Premophotos; 74-75; Michael Fogden/Bruce 

Map Sources 

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forestal Latino- Americano. De Investigacion y capacitacion. Boletin No. 32, AgostoDiciembre. 
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Recursos Forestales.. fo:sf/domb, Informe Terminal, fag. Rome. 1972, 2) Hartshorn. G. et al. The 
Dominican Republic Country Environmental Profile. A Field Study.. USAID contract, JRB 
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Values. Human Threats and Conservation Profiles (unpublished). Grenada - Weaver. P.L-, 
Forestry Development in Grenada. Technical Cooperation Programme. Technical Report: Forestry 
Planning and Management Activities. FO; TCP/GRN/885I. fag. Rome. 1989, Guadeloupe - Vers 
un Amenagemenl de la Foret Soumise de Guadeloupe. Direction des services pour la Guadeloupe, 
Office National des Forets. 1976. Haiti - Cobb. C.E., "Haiti; Against all odds". National 
Geographic 72: 645-670.1987 India - U National Forest Vegetation Map (map). Forest Survey of 
India. 1986. 2) Das Gupta (ed ), Atlas of Forest Resources of India , National Atlas Organization, 
Government of India, Calcutta. 1976, 3) Forest map of South India. Kamataka and Kerala Forest 
Departments and French Institute, Pondicherry. 1986. Indonesia RePPProT, National Overview 
of the Regional Physical Planning Programme for Transmigration (map), Overseas Development 
Natural Resources Institute (odnbi). Chatham. 1990. Jamaica - I) Jamaica Resource Assessment. 
Ministry of Agriculture, Kingston. 1982. 2} Eyre. A.L.. Jamaica: Test Case for Tropical 

Coleman; 76-77: Stephen Dalton/NHPA. 77; (inset left) Michael and Patricia Fogden. (inset right) 
Norman Owen Tomalin: 78; C,B. & D.W, Frith/Bruce Coleman; 78-79; Hans Rheinhard/Bruce 
Coleman; 79; Rod Williams/Bruce Coleman; 80-81: Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman; 81: Stephen 
Dalton/NHPA; 82-83; David Houston/Bruce Coleman; 83: Alain Compost/Bruce Coleman; 84-85: 
Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman; 85: (top) Michael Fogden/Bruce Coleman, (bottom) Gunter 
Ziesler/Bruce Coleman: 86: C Houston/Bruce Coleman;86-87: Ken Preston-Mafham/Premophotos; 
87; (top) Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman, (bottom right) Erwin and Pegg>' Bauer; 88-89: Alain 
Compost/Bruce Coleman; 89; (top) Jean-Paul Ferrro/Auscape. (bottom left) Adrian Warren/Ardea, 
(bottom right) Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman; 90-91: Robert Harding; 92-93: Robin Hanbury- 
Tenison/Robert Harding; 93: Moser, Taylor/Hutchinson Library; 94-95; Robin H anbury -Tenison/ 
Robert Harding; 95: Moser. Taylor/Hutchinson Picture Library; 98: Andi Spicer; 99; Telegraph 
Colour Library; 100; (left) Michael Freeman/Bruce Coleman, (middle left) Bruce (iloleman, (middle 
right) Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman, Sue Cunningham: 105; (top) Steven Kaufman/Bruce 
Coleman, (bottom) M. Timothy O'Keefe/Bruce Coleman; 106-107: Michael Friedel/Rex Features; 
108-109: Frederick Ayer/Science Photo Librarv: 1 12: Sue Cunningham; 1 13; Roger Jackman/Bruce 
Coleman; 117: Hutchinson Library: 1 19: L.C. Marigo/Bruce Coleman; 120-121; Ghillean Prance; 122: 
Sue Cunningham; 124-125; Christian Aid; 125: Loren Mclntyre; 128: (left) Leimbach/Robert 
Harding, (right) Sue Cunningham; 129: Robin Hanbur>'-Tenison/Robert Harding; 131: Heather 
Angel: 132: (top) Ken Preston-Mafham/Premaphotos, ftiottom) K;H:Redford; 135: L.C. Marigo/ 
Bruce Coleman; 138: P. Parker/Hutchinson Library; 139: (left ) R. Campbell/Bruce Coleman, (right) 
Jane Burton/Bruce Coleman: 142: Peter Davey/Bruce Coleman; 144: R. Campbell/ Bruce Coleman; 
147: Ken Preston-Mafham/Premaphotos; 148: Jennifer Fry/Bruce Coleman, (inset) O. Langrand/ 
Bruce Coleman; 149: Rod Williams/Bruce Coleman; 151: Francisco Erize/Bruce Coleman; 152: (top) 
Dieter and Mary Plage/Bruce Coleman, (bottom) Gerald Cubitt/Bruce Coleman; 153: Paul 
Wilkinson; 154: Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman; 157; WWF; l59; Elizabeth Kemf; 160: Rod Williams/ 
Bruce Coleman; 162; Michael Freeman/Bruce Coleman; 164: (top) Gunter Ziesler/Bruce Coleman, 
(bottom) Heather Angel; 165: (left) Tim Porter/Camera Press-wwF, (right) Andi Spicer; 169; (top) 
Brian J. Coates/Bruce Coleman, (bottom) Alain Compost/Bruce Coleman; 173; (left) Christian 
Dodwell/Hutchinson Librar>', (middle) Michael Maclntyre/Hutchinson Library, (right) Michael 
Maclntyre/Hutchinson Librar\': 175; Jan Tavlor/Bruce Coleman; 176-177; Peter Ward/Bruce 
Coleman; 177: (inset) Sue Cunningham; 179: Sue Cunningham; 180-181: Heather Angel; 182; J.A. 
McNeely/wwF; 183: Gerald Cubitt/Bruce Coleman; 185; Brian Rogers/Biofotos; 186-187: Duncan 
Poore/ICCE; 187; Peter Frey; 189; Rod WiUiams/Bruce Coleman; 194-195; Robert Harding. 

Deforestation. Ambio 16 338-343. 1987. 3Msprey. G.F. & Robbins, R.G.. The Vegetation of Jamaica. 
Ecological Monographs 23. 1953, 4} Clarke. C.G., Jamaica in Maps. Africana Publishing Company. 
New York. 1974. 5) IIED. Jamaica. Country Environmental Profile. Ministry of Agriculture. 
Kingston, 1987. Kenya - Doute, R.. Ochanda. N. & Epp, H , A forest inventory of Kenya using 
remote sensing techniques. Kenya Rangeland Ecological Monitoring Unit, Nairobi, 1981. Laos - 
Lao PDR Forest Department. Forest Managemen{ Map. Lao PDR (map). Forestry Department. 
Vientiane. 1987. Lesser Antilles - ecnamp. Survey of Conservation Priorities in the Lesser 
Antilles. Preliminary Data Atlas., Eastern Caribbean Natural Area Management Program. 
Caribbean Conservation Association, the University of Michigan and the United Nations 
Environment Programme. 1980 Madagascar - Green. G.M. & Sussman. R.W.. "Deforestation 
history of the eastern rainforests of Madagascar with satellite images". Science, (in press). Mexico 
- 1) Estrada. A. & Coates-Estrada, R., "Rain forest in Mexico: research and conservation at Los 
Tuxtlas". Oryx 17: 201-204. 1983 2) Gerez, P. & Villela, OF , Co/!sert;QCion en Mexico: Sintesis Sobre 
Vertebrados Terrestres. Vegetacion y uso del Suelo., Instituto Nactonal de Investigaciones Sobre 
Recursos Bioticos. 1988. Panama - Cobb, C.E , "Panama: Ever at the crossroads". National 
Geographic 169: 466-492. 1986. Papua New Guinea - Paijmans, K., Vegetation map of Papua New 
Guinea (map), csiro Land Research Series 35; 1-25. 1975. Peninsula Malaysia - 1) Forest 
Department. Peninsula Malaysia: The Forest Area (hand-coloured map obtained from the Forest 
Department in Kuala Lumpur in 1989; simplified version of the published Forest of Peninsular 
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mapof Malaya with descriptions of the vegetation types". JournQ/o/ Tropica/ Geogrop/iy 18: 200- 
213. 1964, The Philippines - Forest Management Bureau, Natural Forest Resources of the 
Philippines, Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Manila. 1988 Puerto Rico - 1) 
Birdsev. R.A. & Weaver, PL. "Forest Area Trends in Puerto Rico". Research Note SO-331. United 
States Department of Agnculture. 1987, 2) Englerth. GH. & Wadsworth, F,H.. Effects of the 1956 
Hurricane on Forests in Puerto Rico. Caribbean Forester 20: 1-2. 1959. 3) Little. E.L, Jr & 
Wadsworth. F.H,. Common trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.. Department of 
Agriculture. Washington DC. 1964, 4) Birdsey, R,A, & Wadsworth, F,H,. "A new look at the 
forests of Puerto Rico". Turrialba 35: 11-17. I98b Rwanda - 1 ) wcs . Conservation et Amenagement 
des Forets Naturellesde la Crete Zaire-Nil au Rwanda: Rapport de Mission. 1983, 2)aidImab. Draft 
Environmental Profile on Rwanda, (unpublished) Sabah - Sabah Forest Department, Sabah 
Malaysia. Natural Plantation Forests (map), 1984, Sarawak - Sarawak Forest Department. Forest 
Distribution and Land Use Map (map), 1979, South America - /) Hueck. K, & Siebert. D., 
Vegetalionskarte von Sudamerikas (map). Fischer, Stuttgart. 1972, 2) unescg. Vegetation map of 
South America. Unesco. Paris, 1981. Sri Lanka - Survey Department of Sri Lanka, Sn Lanka: 
Chena Cultivation in the Dry Zone and Dense Natural Forest (map), 1988. St Lucia - Caribbean 
Conservation Association and Island Resources Foundation. St Lucia Country Environmental 
Profiles for the Eastern Caribbean. Draft, 1988. Tanzania - 7;Lovett, J., Development threats to the 
Eastern Arcs Forests of Tanzania, wwf/iucn, 1985, ^JLovett. J.C, An overview of the moist forests of 
Tanzania. Tanzania National Scientific Research Council Monographs. 1986, Thailand - Royal 
Forest Department. Forest Types map (map). Royal Forest Department, Bangkok, 1985, Trinidad - 
Beard, J.S., The natural vegetation of Trinidad. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1946. Trinidad and 
Tobago - Annual Report of the Forestry Division for the year 1972. Uganda - 1) Struhsaker. T.T., 
Forestry Issues and Conservation in Uganda, Biological Conservation 39; 209-234. 1987. 2) WWP, 
Conservation of Tropical Forest Wildlife in Uganda. Annual Report March 1987. Project 3235, 1987. 
Venezuela- ;)Alarcon,C, &Huber. O. A/apade Vegetacion de Venezuela. 1988. 2J Ministerio del 
Ambiente y de los Recursos Naturales Renovables Instituto Forestal Latino Americo . Vegetacion 
Mapa No.I2. (map). 1959. Vietnam - Cac Loai Thuc Vat Bi de Doa Dlen hinh va Mot Vung Tap 
Trung (map). Results of a forest inventory in 1987. West Africa - Paivinen, R. & Witt, R., The 
methodology development project for tropical forest cover assessment in West Africa, uncp/geras/ 
grid, (unpublished). West Indies - Watts, D., The West Indies: Patterns of Development, Culture 
and Environmental Change since 1942, Cambridge University Press. 1987. 



> . V 

'd.. ^m 

41- '" 







- >.;•- ■*•: 




-1- , . V 

.- v'.A*.^^ 


^1^..-^ '.' 

The General Editor 

Dr Mark Collins is Head of the Habitats Data Unit 
at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre 
( WCMC ) in Cambridge. UK, where he has worked 
since 1982. He and his colleagues have set up a 
computerized geographic information system at 
the Centre for monitoring the world's richest and 
most threatened ecosystems. In close collaboration 
with lUCN's'n-opical Forest Programme, which 
manages practical conservation projects 
throughout the tropics, and generously supported 
by BR his team's first objective was to map the 
world's rain forests. This book is an early result, 
but the mapped data are e.xpected to be used in a 
wide range of conservation applications. 

Dr Collins is an ecologist. trained at Oxford 
University and Imperial College. London. Before 
joining WCMC he spent a decade living in the 
tropics of Asia. Latin America and Africa, and has 
carried out ecological research in all the world's 
major rain forest areas. 

WCMC - The World Conservation 
Monitoring Centre 

The World Conservation Monitoring Centre is a 
joint venture between three partners: the World 
Consei-\ation Union i ILTCN i. the World Wide Rind 
for Nature i W^F ). and the United Nations 
Environment Programme ( L'NEP). Its mission is 
to support conservation and sustainable 
development by collecting and analysing global 
consei-vation data so that decisions affecting 
biological resources are based on the best available 
information. WCMC draws on its database of the 
world's biological diversity to provide an 
information service to conservation and 
development communities, governments and 
LTnited Nations agencies, scientific institutions. 
the business and commercial sector, and the 

lUCN-The World Conservation Union 

Founded in 1948. lUCN i formerly the 
International Union for Conservation of Nature 
and Natural Resources i is an organization of 
member governments, non-governmental 
organizations, research institutions and 
consenation agencies in 120 countries. The 
Union's objective is to promote and encourage the 
protection and sustainable use of living resources. 
Several thousand scientists and experts from all 
continents form part of a network supporting the 
work of IL'CN covering threatened species, 
protected areas, ecology, sustainable development, 
environmental law. and environmental education 
and training. ILTN's thematic programmes 
include tropical forests, wetlands, marine 
ecosystems, plants, the Sahel. Antarctica, 
population and sustainable development, and 
women in conservation. These activities enable 
lUCN and its members to develop sound policies 
and programmes for the conservation of biological 
diversity and sustainable development of natural 

"All our knowledge must be deployed to produce programmes that will 

reconcile the needs of the people who live in the forests with those of 

industrialists and politicians living around their margins, and those of 

the people in the world at large who can see that the tropical rain forests 

contain some of the world's greatest treasures and are an integral part of 

both its health and glory." 

David Attenborough 



J . s 



ISBN 0-85533-789-3